Edited 9/18/15: The social media manager at McCall’s is Meg McDonald.
A month ago I saw this tweet in my feed and got a little surge of excitement:
Yippee, we’re on Twitter!
— McCallPatternCompany (@McCallPatternCo) April 26, 2014
That same day I came across the brand new McCall’s Instagram feed.
So why the surge of excitement from me? I love to sew. I’m a sewing pattern designer and I love the sewing industry. McCall’s has always been a huge player in home sewing, but up until now they’d been largely silent online. Twitter and Instagram were where indie pattern designers like me built an audience and connected with our customers and our colleagues. When McCall’s joined the mix, what would they say? Who were they?
Prior to this moment, McCall’s online was this:
A static website listing their products.
They did have a Facebook page, but typical status updates were like this one:
Basically an ad for what was already on their website.
This got me thinking about why we love indie designers. Is it because they’re more talented than the in-house designers at McCall’s? I don’t think so. I think we feel devoted to indie designers because we’re in search of humanity. We want to know the human story, the personality behind the design. Home sewing today can be much more than just choosing a pattern and sitting alone at the machine. It can be about connection and community and relationships. Social media has enabled all of that to happen.
McCall’s shift from a silence or a rather staid social media presence to this new active one was really striking to me for another reason. Two years ago I interviewed Virginia Maizenaski, the “Non-Fashion Designer” at McCall’s, for a post I was working on. I requested a few images to use and instead of emailing me some jpegs they asked for my mailing address for the CD. Sending me a CD was easier than emailing me some blog-quality images. And now suddenly here they were tweeting about MeMadeMay and Kollabora. Whoa! McCall’s got hip to the internet overnight.
Take a look at the McCall’s Facebook timeline and see the shift that took place in mid-April. We start seeing posts like this one:
A little self-effacing and irreverent and totally funny and worth commenting on. We start seeing references to Mad Men and comparisons between McCall’s patterns and the clothes for sale right now at Anthropologie.
On Instagram we got to see glimpses of what goes on behind the scenes at McCall’s offices and studios in New York for the very first time. What was once totally unknown and unseen to the general public was now on display.
I asked Kathy Marrone, Editor at Vogue Patterns Magazine, to tell me more about who was behind McCalls’ new social media efforts. “At first we tried asking people on staff to take on some social media tasks—like posting to our brands’ Facebook pages and pinning to Pinterest—when they had the time,” she explained, “but that wasn’t really effective because they were already up to their eyeballs with their own work.” So they hired Meg whom Marrone describes as “a social media pro who knows the online sewing community inside and out.”
The voice of McCalls on Twitter and Facebook is the voice of Meg. Or is it? I asked for Meg’s last name and a head shot that I could post here so that we could know to whom we were speaking when we tweeted back to McCall’s or liked their Instagram photos, but those things are not to be had.
Meg herself explained it this way.
“So… about including a head shot of me. I worry that doing so may shift our social media efforts on to me and not to the company. I would prefer to remain behind the scenes and let our customers project who they want McCall’s social media team to be.”
“Let’s just say I am a woman who has been sewing with our patterns since she was 12, loves fashion, really enjoys making her own clothes and wants to see more people take up sewing, has been active in the online sewing community for several years, both personally and professionally, thinks sewers are the coolest people around and could spend all day chatting with them on Twitter if she had nothing else to do.”
“As far as my name goes, I’m going to use the name Meg Carter as my online persona. One, my first name really is Meg. Two, ‘Meg Carter’ is the fictional name used by McCall’s customer service department for many years, sort of like Betty Crocker. If you had a question about a pattern you’d write to Meg Carter back in the pre-email days. So we thought it was fun and appropriate to resurrect this name for our social media efforts.”
Is McCall’s right in keeping the real Meg’s identity a secret? Or would we connect with the brand even better if we knew who she was?
One thing we do know. Meg (Carter) enjoys her weekends.
— McCallPatternCompany (@McCallPatternCo) May 4, 2014