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If you want to find the latest, hottest handbag, you go to Neiman Marcus’s website. But if you want the latest exclusive Rebecca Minkoff “Elle Studded Satchel” in red, you wouldn’t have found it on their website a few weeks ago.  That’s because the company had it exclusively listed on Pinterest.

The “Scarlet Elle” was available only on Neiman’s Art of Handbags board from July 30 to August 12, before arriving to its native website.   Neiman, which has a close relationship with Rebecca Minkoff, wanted to reward its Pinterest fans with an exclusive opportunity to order the handbag first.

“We had this Rebecca Minkoff exclusive that happens to embody three of our new top trends this season: it’s red, it’s rocker chic and it’s also a scaled down handbag, which are all of our top trends this season,” said Jean Scheidnes, social media managing editor for Neiman.Rebecca Minkoff

Aside from having the handbag exclusively in the color red for the foreseeable future, Neiman knew that there was going to be a lot of buzz around the bag.  Specifically, the “Elle” was named by Minkoff’s friend and influential fashion blogger Bryanboy (after his grandmother), who was also planning on doing some promotional events with Minkoff.  So, Neiman Marcus decided to add to the buzz by making it even more exclusive.

“We knew we would have a lot of this hoopla that we wanted to support with social media,” Scheidnes said.  “So, what if we took this idea with an exclusive product and made it even more exclusive by offering it exclusively to our Pinterest fans, at least for a period of time, so they could have first crack at it?”

Neiman worked closely with visual-analytics company Curalate to come up with the campaign as the two companies brainstormed about new ways to use social media aside from just generating followers.

“Followers are fun, but what can we do with them and how can we show them that we care that they’re there?” said Apu Gupta, founder and CEO of Curalate.  “That was the thing that sparked it, we want to do something with these followers and also start showing business results.”

During the campaign, Neiman Marcus picked up nearly 3,000 new Pinterest followers in less than 2 weeks and boosted overall pinning from their native website.  In fact, pinning of content directly from Neiman’s website grew 20 percent and repins grew 35 percent.

Neiman took it a step further, hosting a Google+ Hangout on August 13 to discuss fall trends with Minkoff, Bryanboy, Neiman Fashion Director Ken Downing and Chief Editor Tina Craig.  The company is embracing the visual side of social media, which fits in nicely with its strong editorial content.

“We definitely see that the social networks that are purely visual, i.e. Pinterest and Instagram, are where we’re seeing the most growth and engagement at this time,” Scheidnes said.  “And its a great fit for our business because fashion lends itself to visual media.”

At more than a century old, Neiman Marcus has a remarkable legacy in fashion retail, but it’s beginning to be known for it’s “out of the box” thinking around social networks.  The company is a trailblazer in the social media world, thinking about Pinterest as a business generator instead of purely a social channel.

“Amongst the bigger brands, there’s a lot of people following rather than leading,” Gupta said.  “We see a lot of the innovation happening with the smaller brands, that’s why it’s so interesting to us when we see these very large brands doing innovative things.”

Gupta believes that many companies still view social media as a place to get the most “likes” and generate the most followers instead of using it as a tool to generate sales.  But, as with Neiman Marcus, he is beginning to see companies take the platform more seriously, viewing it as a necessity instead of a novelty.

“It’s going to take two parties from the organization to make this happen,” Gupta said.  “The existing incumbent leaders within the organization have to get their heads around the fact that social matters, and that’s happening.  And now the social folks have to get their heads around the fact that social has to drive business results.  Both of those things are starting to happen, and now social is starting to have a real material impact on business.”

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