When mall giant Simon Property Group sent out a call for bloggers last year, the company received more than 700 applications for 40 positions.
To engage its online audience, Simon established a pilot blogger program called Style Setter at 38 of the company's 326 retail properties, including one at Coconut Point mall in the south Lee County area of Estero.
The idea is to provide a local opinion on fashion and beauty, enticing visitors to various shops at Coconut Point mall. “Our job is to drive shoppers into the mall,” says Stephanie Jenkins, assistant vice president of digital marketing for Simon Property.
Each mall has its own blogger, who receives an undisclosed stipend for editorial content and mall appearances. “We didn't know what to expect, and we were surprised how many people wanted to blog for us,” says Jenkins.
At Coconut Point mall, Naples fashion blogger Nicole Forbis' insights will be posted on the mall's website (shopcoconutpoint.com), the mall's Facebook page (it has 11,000 “Likes”) and via email to customers. “It's the best way to get a conversation with our audience,” says Forbis. “Your greatest liability is not being part of the conversation.”
“Nicole had that experience and the eye,” says Tara Beauchesne, Coconut Point's director of marketing and business development. The mall's Facebook fans also had a hand in voting for Forbis among the top three candidates from a pool of 30 applicants for Coconut Point.
Forbis already blogs in her spare time about fashion on her website, Fashionistaweekly.com. She's a frequent guest at runway fashion shows in places like New York City while working social media and marketing for Collins & Dupont Interior Design in Bonita Springs.
Forbis says she's going to be writing about fashion trends and will highlight items in various stores at Coconut Point mall that fit into that trend. For example, the trendy color this year is emerald, so she might highlight jewelry, clothing and accessories from different stores that feature this color.
Or perhaps she'll blog about a theme, such as the children going back to school in the fall. “I'll be finding trends that speak to all the demographics,” Forbis says.
Simon's corporate office and Beauchesne will review Forbis' contributions for accuracy, but they say Forbis will retain editorial discretion over the content. “It all comes from the blogger and what they see in the mall,” says Jenkins.
Forbis says she might entice shoppers to try stores they might not have visited. For example, younger women might want to shop at Chico's for accessories even though the store targets older women. “It's my secret weapon for accessories,” she says. “They're always on trend and priced right.”
In addition to blogging 250 to 500 words once a week, Forbis will attend mall events. In particular, she'll help explain the latest trends at fashion shows, such as the recent moms' night out event.
Forbis says she writes with online search engines in mind so her work will appear on Google and other similar search services. Beauchesne says mall customers respond best to Facebook and Instagram. “We use it a lot for our events,” Beauchesne says.