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.
It was neat to see and, most importantly, it was human. Sort of.
An industry giant like McCall’s is a very different sort of business than say, grainline or even Colette. How can you be human when, well, you’re really hundreds of humans?
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.
Happy Sunday morning to you! Eating breakfast while wearing a #Butterick robe made a few years ago. #mmmay14 #memademay
— McCallPatternCompany (@McCallPatternCo) May 4, 2014
Lovely post! Like you, I was really glad to see McCall’s step into the social media fray – finally! And isn’t it fascinating to be able to peek behind the scenes!
It really is. Meg seems super nice and with it. Every company has an interesting story to tell and I’m so glad McCall’s is choosing to begin to tell theirs in a new way.
Heather Shuker says
Meg, or, Meg’s boss as the case might be, does have a point. There is a certain mystique surrounding a company’s social media accounts, especially when it is done well. Some of that would be lost if you could see the lady behind the (well designed and expertly sewn) curtain.
Also, if Meg’s life takes her away from McCall’s, where does that leave the company? It’s better for the company to keep the attachment to the brand, than the person or persons behind the brand.
That said, as a human, I’d prefer to see Meg’s face.
When Jaime Guthals was running Interweave’s social media accounts I knew I was speaking to her when I tweeted to Interweave. I followed her personally on Twitter as well. I follow many of the program managers at Etsy on Twitter. I follow the founder of Buffer and I follow Buffer. I lean toward truly humanizing a business. If Meg is at McCall’s in this role for a year and then moves on, we’ll have gotten to know her and we’ll follow her where she goes next. Then we’ll introduce ourselves to the new Meg. Everyone knows that businesses are run by people. Let us meet the people.
Heather Shuker says
As a huge supporter (and not so huge producer) of handmade, I could not agree more about humanizing business!
I was just playing devil’s advocate as to why a large company might take a conservative approach toward their social media efforts as well as why an employee may want to keep a separation between her work and private life.
Again, though, wholeheartedly agree. I’m a human. You’re a human. Show me your face (I’ll show you mine) and let’s have a conversation.
Completely love reading your site, by the way. Thank you for sharing so much practical advice!
So great, Heather. Thank you!
I sell at TeachersPayTeachers.com, which is very comparable to selling patterns online. One thing they have done to build community is to introduce each staff member and describe their role. Each member is then active in the forums available to sellers. I know off the top of my head that Amy is the community manager, and Nicole helps her. I have faces to go with those names. I do not know their last names, but I don’t need to. They identify themselves when they post on the blog or Facebook. Ultimately, it builds both community and company loyalty. Sellers are quick to support the company, even when changes are made, because we know someone will hear any concerns we voice, and we know exactly who those people are. Amy leaving would make us all very sad, and then we would welcome the next person into her role.
All that to say, Meg, post a headshot. 🙂
My first instinct is to prefer a non-anonymous voice, but I can imagine that a big company like that would want to maintain continuity if their social media person eventually leaves and they hire someone else — there’d be a change in voice in the postings, but they could have a relatively seamless changeover. The DMC Threads blog is written by one Emma Broidery, and from time to time I wonder who that really is, but I enjoy reading the blog.
That’s totally fascinating, Daisy. Thanks for introducing me to Emma Broidery. So so good.
I didn’t see this switch in social media, but something that I recently discovered is that McCalls now lets you buy digital patterns, which as far as I know is not the case for the other big pattern companies. This is great for me because I don’t live in the States and being able to access a pattern from anywhere in the world is definitely a step in the right direction in the internet age (and really it’s about time, seeing as there are so many indie pattern designers selling digital patterns).
I don’t feel like knowing exactly who Meg is really matters so much otherwise it would be too much focus on a person as opposed to a company.
Very interesting read! 🙂 Lisa
Yes, they do! I saw that recently on their site. Such a good move, I think. It’s fascinating to see how the world of sewing patterns supply and distribution is shifting.
Really cool post ! They really did update quickly that’s cool thanks for sharing
Thank you for this!
I realized the sudden social media presence of McCall and kinda liked it. They’re on IG (I’m not on Twitter) and blogs commenting. They’re on Pattern Review commenting on reviews and participating in the forum. It’s very cool to “come down into the weeds” and make yourself more visible.
I disagree that we should “see” Meg. IMO this is trying to make McCall Co feel more indie. They don’t need to do that. Meg is not the face of McCall like Sarai is of Colette or Tasia of Sewaholic…it doesn’t make sense to attach the entire umbrella that is McCall to one person.
Also, Maybe this will also cut down on the lashing that seems to only be reserved for Big 4 patterns.
I like it, too. While I agree that it certainly doesn’t make sense to attach McCall’s to just one person, I think we can all understand that a company hires a social media expert to handle their presence online and we’re able to develop a relationship with that person as an individual while they represent the company.
I think you bring up a great point about the critique that big 4 patterns get. The larger you get as a company, the more people see you as “the man.” They feel they can critique your work without hurting your feelings because the company is just so large. We’re much more hesitant to attack the little guy (a one or two person pattern company, for example). By knowing “Meg” we can attach a real person to an otherwise faceless company and perhaps develop more of a personal relationship with them.
Could also be a gentleman too. Just throwing that out there. I think it might be more than one. SM can be such a bear, and you can always use the help. But what I like is that their feeds are not constantly bombarding you with offers, freebies, sales etc. I know that a lot of businesses need to do that. But, if you look at their FB feed they might do one post a day. Simple, memorable, awesome. I’m a big fan of their Twitter feed, and even commented that they make Twitter fun again! I’m sure Vogue and Butterrick are sure to follow.
I would like to know who is behind ‘Meg Carter’ from a professional stand point. I love what they are doing with Social Media and emulate it when I can. I write for 3 magazines, with 4 SM channels each, a lot of times it loses its fun.
Great blog by the way. Glad I found it!
I can assure that Meg Carter is a woman (in fact, her real name is Meg) and she is just one person. I’m not sure if they’ll assign a special social media account to Vogue and Butterick. Maybe on Facebook, but I’m not sure about Twitter and Instagram. McCall’s is the overall umbrella for the entire brand I think. Thanks for your thoughts.