Thirty-five thousand entries. One-hundred thousand store visits. Three-hundred thousand YouTube views. 10 million Facebook posts.*

The numbers are impressive. They represent the level of customer engagement Wet Seal earned in its 2010 social media-driven model search. Wet Seal’s Chief Information Officer Jon Kubo related the brand’s online success to fellow retailers at a conference last month in San Francisco.

The significant impact of the single promotion described above not only brings attention to Facebook, the platform that drove most of the engagement, but also entices previously-skeptical retailers to take another look at social media.

We hope they do. And we hope they look far deeper than an accounting of fans and followers.

The numbers above signify neither fans nor followers. They illustrate actions. They show that customers and potential customers are willing to invest time and effort in the brand experience and add their voices to the corps of advocates promoting the brand. 10 million Facebook posts? That’s a lot of buzz for a marketing campaign built around a contest.

How did they do it? Wet Seal is doing a lot right. It produces interactive content that provides fans and customers opportunities to belong to the evolving story of the brand. In addition to the model search, Wet Seal has created tools that allow individuals to create (and share) outfits and operate personalized virtual stores.

That’s the lesson. A social promotion on Facebook has the best chance when it is part of a broad and ongoing strategy to welcome and involve people with interest in your brand. Don’t just put up a Facebook fan page and start broadcasting on Twitter. Use your knowledge of why customers love your brand to customize opportunities and experiences for them.

If they recognize your brand’s personality in what you offer – conversation, entertainment, value, interaction, relationships – you will attract their attention and participation.

And by the numbers, they will be excited enough to tell more than a few friends about it.

*According to “Top of Mind for Retailers? Facebook,” an article at in March 2011