(Photos courtesy of Sojin Oh and owned by American Apparel.)

In the tumultuous world of retail adapting to the e-commerce boom, American Apparel is a comeback kid.

After filing for bankruptcy and getting acquired by Canada’s Gildan Activewear, the company closed all of their physical stores last year. Since then, they’ve undergone a complete brand makeover and have come back stronger than ever under the fierce command of an all-female executive team.

We spoke with Sojin Oh, the brand’s PR and Social Media Manager, to learn more about the company rebrand, how their shift to online-only shapes their digital strategy, and how Curalate helps her small team crush it on social.

Sojin first began working for American Apparel back in 2013 in Kingston, Ontario. She took the liberty of creating the company’s first ever Instagram account… without asking permission. Instead of getting in trouble, she was promoted and asked to elevate AA’s social presence around the country. Since then, she’s moved to the company’s headquarters in Los Angeles and has been managing PR and social ever since.

You work in both social and PR at AA: what are some of your day-to-day responsibilities?

Our team is small (under 10 people), so I wear lots of hats every week. For social, I cast models, organize photo shoots, brainstorm design concepts, create content, and post on our social channels. On the PR side, I work with influencers, celebrities, stylists and editors on product placement initiatives, pitch to the press, and organize events. And these are only a few of my daily responsibilities!

It’s really fun having two job titles – I learn new things everyday. I’m so grateful that this company believes so much in their employees. I’ve even modeled for them!

That’s awesome! What was that like?

I loved it! I had always been a little self-conscious and never imagined myself in front of the camera. Doing a photoshoot with AA has taught me that it’s not about looking perfect, it’s about being happy and proud in your own skin.

On that note, could you tell me a bit about American Apparel’s recent rebrand?

We’ve decided to only use models who are 21 and older, and we want them to look comfortable and happy in their photos. We ran a brand study and realized that some of our old photography made it hard for people to focus on the products because the models looked sort of uncomfortable or nervous. We want our models to look sexy, but not be sexually objectified. American Apparel’s executive team is all women, and that’s shaped a lot of the rebrand. We want to celebrate real people.

Yaaasss. How does having a Curalate Fanreel gallery on your homepage align with that company goal?

We use Fanreel to feature user-generated content (UGC) on our site because it demonstrates true authenticity. Our customers have more confidence in their purchases because they see people just like them rocking and styling our products.

In stores, it’s easier to sell products because people tend to make more impulsive or emotional purchases, but it’s difficult to recreate that experience online. UGC is the perfect solution to creating a more personal experience for our customers online and invokes the same kind of in-store emotional response.

American Apparel has no more physical stores – how has that shaped your digital strategy?

We’ve had to completely shift gears and place a very strategic focus on how we connect with our customers on social channels, as well as on our website. We rely heavily on Instagram to fuel our on-site fan gallery, but we also use Like2Buy to drive traffic and conversions from our Instagram page to the website.

Why is Like2Buy so crucial to that strategy?

Like2Buy is the highest source of referral traffic to our website – it accounts for 14% of all referral transactions!

That’s what we like to hear! You’re also using Curalate’s new Instagram dashboard – how has that helped with your team’s strategy and execution?

I am not the most organized person, so the schedule feed preview completely changed the game for me. I can see what our profile will look like after posting instead of imagining it in my head. I can also easily export and share our content schedule with my team.

It also saves me a ton of time – I can schedule content for the entire week in less than 30 minutes, and I don’t have to rely on my coworkers to post for me while I’m out of the office. It’s amazing!

Let’s switch gears a bit and talk about influencers. So hot right now. Your team often uses micro-influencers for campaigns and content – why do you think they’re so valuable to brands right now?

The influencer boom happened so quickly and companies poured so much money into hiring heavy-hitting influencers. Unfortunately, those mega-influencers tend to lack loyalty and it’s difficult to prove any sort of ROI from those campaigns.

We want people who are genuine fans of our brand, and who believe in us as a company. We’ve worked with influencers who have less than 10k followers, but because they love AA so much, they often volunteer to post for free. When we repost their content to our Instagram, they receive more exposure and it’s a win-win for both of us. We love seeing our micro-influencers grow!

When you work with influencers, do you provide creative direction? Or do you just let them do their thing?

We just let them run with it! If you try to give direction, you lose authenticity. It’s also important to diversify the content you’re sharing. It gets so boring if all of the photos have the same concept. I always ask influencers to have fun and create all different types of content: selfies, videos, full-body, lay down shots, etc.

Our content is much more personal when we feature real people instead of models. A feeling comes out in the photos and it helps us build better relationships with our customers.

How do you usually find and connect with influencers?

We use Curalate a lot! My favorite part of the dashboard is the Mentioned & Tagged feature. We used to miss great posts and influencers reaching out to us because we’re usually flooded with tags and mentions. Now we can see all of the most recent tags, and filter by follower count, hashtag, etc. The filtering Curalate offers saves me at least three hours a day!

What is the best advice you can give to brands going through a rebrand or to smaller brands just getting their business off the ground?

For companies going through a rebrand, I would say don’t try to change everything. Take a step back and figure out what worked and what didn’t. Research your consumers and figure out what they love most about your brand.

For start-ups, don’t be afraid to try something different. It’s great to have a moodboard and gather inspiration from other brands, but it’s better to create your own personality. People get bored easily, especially on social media, due to the overflowing of content. Shock them and make them crave your content!

Interested in learning how Curalate’s social tools and on-site experiences can help your brand drive more quality traffic and conversions? Click here to watch a demo.