For some fashion brands, building an audience through social media is a struggle, and enticing people to share photos of your merchandise is like pulling teeth. Then there’s American Apparel, with a social media presence that’s one of the most enviable in the field. Its primary Instagram account has a whopping 1.6 million followers and #AmericanApparel has generated 934,000 posts from people all over the world. Meanwhile, the brand’s most loyal fans have posted more than 78,000 times with the hashtag #AASelfie.

So how does American Apparel capitalize on all the attention it’s getting on Instagram? It partners with Curalate to make its Instagram accounts shoppable, and to easily identify and utilize the most compelling user-generated content.

This spring, American Apparel launched Fanreel, which pulls in fan photos from #AASelfie and #AmericanApparel. Each image is actionable — meaning people can click on the photo to reveal all the products within the image and easily click through to the product pages to find out more information.

The company’s mission for launching Fanreel is simple: Show people that they’re not just customers, they’re part of the brand.

“We’re hoping to see our products on as many diverse individuals as we can — and we hope to share that content to help engage our audience. We’re inspired by our customer’s relationship to our brand and clothing. It’s a natural step to create a space where we can share the content they are creating” said Katrina Reynolds, Digital Marketing Manager at American Apparel’s Los Angeles HQ. “It’s important we let our community know they’re part of the brand in a very real way. Sharing UGC on our social channels, and now online through Fanreel, becomes instinctual.”

Katrina has high expectations for the new AA Fanreel. “It’ll be great for our executive team to see what kind of content is being created by our social community,” said Katrina. “The millennials on staff are used to seeing a high level of interaction on social media, but I think our executive team will be excited to see how engaged the follower base is and the quality of content they’re creating.”

#aaHalloween

Halloween is a special time for American Apparel.

The retailer sells everything from bodysuits to basics to form-fitting disco pants — making it a hugely popular Halloween costume destination. Whether they’re going for funny or sexy, people love to use AA merchandise as part of their costume designs.

American Apparel has hosted a Halloween costume contest for years, but wanted to kick it up a notch in 2015, so it offered this super-sweet silver 1987 Cadillac Allantè with Italian leather as its top prize. To enter, the company asked fans to upload a photo to any social platform with the hashtag #aaHalloween.

After gathering thousands of awesome entries, American Apparel wanted to show them off, so it partnered with Curalate to create a Fanreel of all the best entries, which is now displayed on the American Apparel site.

But it’s no secret that Halloween can get racy, so American Apparel wanted the ability to moderate the content. With the Curalate platform, Katrina’s team easily filtered through the entries to find the best content, ask for user permissions and remove any inappropriate material. Without it, social contests at American Apparel — and all the fun that comes with them — could have become things of the past.

“We couldn’t continue to run social contests in the way we had been running them historically. We needed a tool like Fanreel to help us moderate the content, but also a rights management tool to satisfy our legal department,” said Katrina.

#WearBodysuits

Another social campaign centered around a very American Apparel product — bodysuits. AA asked people to share photos showing how they styled bodysuits, and offered a wide collection of them as a prize. Katrina tempered her expectations for the campaign because it targeted a pretty narrow subset of the AA fan base. I mean, how many people really feel strongly about bodysuits? A lot, apparently! The contest generated more than 4,000 entries in just a few weeks.

“People were massively engaged,” said Katrina. “To get that many responses on such a narrow category showed that we were reaching the consumer with products they liked and were excited about — and showed they wanted to interact with our brand.”

A big reason for the high engagement was in-store promotions, with signage in fitting rooms encouraging shoppers to a contest hashtag.

“It prompted instantaneous action,” said Katrina. Instead of delaying or complicating the way  people entered contest, it also got staff at the store level engaged.

“Most of our staff is younger and they’re already taking these actions on their own,” said Katrina. “They usually participate on their own accounts and use the #AAemployee hashtag. It’s really natural for them.”

Running social contests of this magnitude takes a lot of work, and the AA team says Curalate helped them save serious time.

“The Curalate tool is really intuitive to us, which I appreciate. I’ve used other platforms and if the tool itself is not user friendly, you just don’t end up using it,” said Katrina. “Everybody that has access to the tool finds it intuitive and helpful in their daily work.”

“The Trickle-Up Effect”

With 50 regional Instagram accounts, employees can create compelling content at the store level and then submit it to the corporate staff for reposting on the main account.

“It has a trickle-up effect where the best content gets back to us at HQ,” said Katrina. In fact, they were so impressed with the folks at an American Apparel store in Israel, that they actually hired the photographer and models for a brand-wide campaign.

“Accessing talent from all levels within the company has always been part of who we are as a brand,” said Katrina.

After partnering with Curalate, American Apparel is armed with shoppable photos from fans and store associates, an even more engaged fan base, and the ability to easily launch new contests in the future.