YouTube vloggers are raking in AdSense dollars every day, and even a popular Vine user can build up enough followers to grab the attention of retailers for product placements. There’s an undeniable appeal to monetizing social network activity, but few companies have figured out how to commoditize selfies and likes without ruining the simple fun of hanging with friends online.
Stylinity, a startup helmed by CEO Tadd Spering, could be well on its way to formulating the perfect mix of monetized social content that customers actually want to interact with. After fashionistas who want the world to see their looks upload pictures to Stylinity, they can tag individual clothing items for easy indexing. When followers check up on their favorite influencers’ styles, they can buy the same items with a few simple clicks. In an interview with MPD CEO Karen Webster, Spering explained how the idea for Stylinity began with the realization that, even in the beginning of social media, everything seemed connected.
“It sort of seemed to me like the original social media was going to evolve into sharing digital pictures and having everything connected so that all that content will be shoppable,” Spering said. “Then Facebook came into existence, then Instagram, cellphones got cameras and all of the stars started to align for this to be a viable business. It had been in the back of my head for such a long time that I eventually had to quit my job and go start the company.”
Because Stylinity relies on users to create all content on the site, it builds in incentives for social media influencers to post more pictures and tag more items. When posters upload enough pictures of themselves in retailers’ offerings and spur other users to click through Stylinity’s app to buy those same items directly from merchants, the original poster receives a portion of the sale – not a mountain of riches, to be sure, but enough to keep important social media influencers coming back for more.
At the moment, Stylinity has a small but dedicated user base mostly comprised of young females who closely follow the fashion scene. However, Spering noted that the company is exploring several ways to expand beyond its current niche market. On the immediate radar, Spering explained, is growth into the chic home goods sector, a short leap from the aesthetic similarities of its current fashion-forward users.
Where Stylinity is truly poised for long-term success though is in the future of social commerce on popular sites like Facebook and Instagram. According to data from Invesp, referrals by trusted social media users already increase the likelihood of purchases by 71 percent. Fashion and apparel comprise significant segments of commoditized social media content, too, with 17 percent of all social-to-sale purchases on Pinterest, 22 percent on Facebook and 18 percent on Twitter.
As Spering emphasized, social media platforms are evolving by the day, which keeps presenting new opportunities for Stylinity to reach more potential users.
“We’re seeing different social media platforms release additional functionality,” Spering said. Over time, some of the other platforms are going to add additional features and functionality that make the content shared there work that much better. There will just be a continuing move toward social influencer content and us connecting all of these dots to make all that stuff shoppable.”
For now, Spering and Stylinity are focused on continuing to build a thriving community of influencers and curious shoppers. If Stylinity can get that critical mass of users, retailers might start flocking to the social commerce platform that cuts down costs.