How one retailer made Winston the dog an Instagram icon

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Browse the recent photos on online clothing retailer ModCloth’s Instagram account, and you’ll see lots of apparel,
sure, but you’ll also see food, books, home décor, and dogs. Lots of dogs. One dog in particular, a pug named Winston, dominates the imagery.

The company isn’t interested in simply selling clothes through Instagram, says Julianne Murrell, social media and marketing writer for ModCloth. It wants
to exemplify a lifestyle.

“We are our best customer, and because of that, the interest in a cultural connection is natural,” she says. “If we weren’t living and engaging the
ModCloth lifestyle with our communities, from DIY to retro wedding inspirations and so much more, then we’d be a different company.”

As a result of that approach, Modcloth’s Intagram account has drawn nearly 170,000 followers in about two years.

Finding footing

ModCloth started its Instagram account in May 2011, after seeing several other companies join in and be successful. Initially, Murrell and her team simply
focused on filling the stream with photos, but soon enough, they started thinking about a strategy for using the photo-sharing service.

“We worked across the buying, community, and photography teams to establish internal standards and guidelines,” she says. “Once the guidelines were
outlined, we also encouraged anyone from the company to submit their own on-brand photos to an internal, open-collaboration group.”

One thing the group could agree on pretty quickly was getting Winston, who appears on some of the items that ModCloth sells, in on the fun.

“Winston has been a fixture in ModCloth culture since the beginning,” Murrell says. “Including him in our Instagram feed was a natural, as we’re a
dog-friendly company across all offices. And who doesn’t want to see puppies in their Instagram feed?”

The company plays fair, too. A few #modclothkitties show up in the feed as well, she says.

Social crossover

All the social networks are becoming more visual, more focused on photos, Murrell says. So, what ModCloth does on Instagram has an impact on what shows up
in its other social presences.

“Not only are we thinking of Instagram in terms of a single photo, we’re also considering its contribution to Google+, Facebook, Pinterest, and Tumblr,”
she says. “We’re starting to use Instagram to support our other networks’ objectives, so Instagram is playing a bigger role by the day. We already have the
social voice down pat and are now working to make the images on all of our networks just as shareable and viral, starting with our engaged Instagram
community.”

The company’s Instagram photo stream is one of its tabs on its Facebook page, for
example.

The ethos of depicting a lifestyle rather than a stream of new products goes beyond Instagram, Murrell says.

“[A customer] doesn’t come to Instagram to see our newest arrivals, but she can get a sneak peek of a really cool style that’ll be launching soon, which
makes the product experience so much more engaging for our Instagram community,” she says.

The same goes for Pinterest or Google+.

Measuring results

It’s tough to link sales directly to Instagram, because you can’t link to product pages through the mobile app, Murrell says. However, there are certainly
some signs that ModCloth’s Instagram feed has been a boon to the company.

“Instagram is generating some of the highest response numbers in comments of our networks, and from that we’re collecting valuable sentiment that informs
all other areas of the ModCloth business,” she says. “We’re seeing styling questions which circle back to the ModStylists. We’ve gotten feedback about our
mobile devices, which is sent to our mobile team, and [we] are receiving sentiment about fit and customer care concerns.”

Beyond that, including an Instagram picture with a Facebook or Google+ post tends to make that post much more likely to inspire user engagement than one
with a smaller, less-colorful image, Murrell says.

Plus, Instagram is part of a big push on ModCloth’s part to make mobile communications the cornerstone of its business. The company just launched an iPad
app and is revising its iPhone app.

“Online apparel shopping isn’t just headed in the direction of mobile; it’s already there,” Murrell says.

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