Late last year, the retail company, Free People implemented a new campaign on their website called FP Me (http://www.freepeople.com/fpme/). FP Me allows regular consumers to act as models for the brand. When clicking on an item of clothing, you can see it on a regular consumer’s body, not just a model’s body, which allows you to see the “normal” fitting of the clothes. In order to participate with the FP Me campaign you need to provide your email to make a Free People account. You can then “take heart” (Like), follow, or comment on different pictures or collections. While the FP Me site does have similarities to Instagram and Pinterest, it is yet another example of how retail brands are attempting to develop their own social media communities to convert the fan/follower into actual revenue. Brands have long struggled with this for several years, despite the popularity of Facebook and other social media channels. According to a recent WebTrends report, “in just one year, Fortune 100 companies lost nearly a quarter of their website traffic, while Facebook traffic increased by more than 50%.” Retail brands like Free People have created a branded destination for discussion between them and the consumers that they can “own,” instead of a third-party social media platform. By curating their own community, brands can more effectively drive their own products or services, deepen brand affinity, leverage consumer insights, nurture relationships and drive revenue goals. This post is NOT intended to be a rallying cry for brand marketers to flee social media channels. Such channels and the user-generated content derived from them remain a vital tool for executing many marketing strategies. It’s simply to say that many brands choose to leverage existing platforms because they merely want to take the conversation to the consumer. They additionally do not have the bandwidth to support their own social media channel. So they develop basic content or implement PPC ads within Facebook and hope for the best. Instead, by developing an actionable marketing strategy that supports realizing operational goals – like driving revenue – brands like Free People have been able to leverage a social community that provides value; to the brand and to the consumers that are now flocking to it.