Threadless: A Case Study In Online Community

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I own threadless shirts, and love seeing their new, and often campy, designs on a weekly basis.  With some previous coverage of threadless on previous One Degree posts about saving abandoned shopping carts, this article provides a bit of a case-study on the offset communities threadless has generated.

The first question to answer is; What is threadless?  In short, threadless is a community-oriented, and centred, t-shirt store which users submit designs and concepts.  Designs are voted on by the community, and winners are not only printed, but compensated monetarily as well.
While specifically dealing with adult t-shirts, threadless has since branched off to make kids t-shirts over at threadless kids, as well as the new Naked and Angry – a separate community which has made user-submitted ties and wallpaper.

Where threadless has excelled is is by maturing a creative community which has generating subsequent communities based off of its original concept.  These communities however, are not run by Skinnycorp (threadless’ parent company), but rather by its customers. Loves Threadless is a blog about threadless, and is run by a web developer and blogger.  The community site discusses the new weekly designs (updated every Monday), and takes the conversation about the shirts to a new level.  Looking at the site’s statistics, the average daily visits are over 200 from all over the world, and while small, presents a nice audience heavily interested in the product.

An offshoot of Loves Threadless is Threadless Cakes, where users share photos of their cakes modeled from tshirt designs.  The site asks visitors to:

Bake us a cake of your best interpretation of your absolute favoritest Threadless design. Be crazy creative, if you’re good with cake. Make a straight up decorated design or whatever your take is on certain design elements. Send us a pic (or several, preferred) of your finished creation. Take a few of the process, too. Hell, even if you suck at baking, the absolute worst thing that happens is you eat cake. And that’s probably the best absolute worst thing *ever*.

These two sites tap into the threadless’ rich community, but it doesn’t stop there. Rethreaded is a website for fans or collectors to muse about previous shirts, or trade/sell shirts they no longer want to other aficionados.  A cursory look shows visitors and posters in search for specific shirts and sizes, in a resale market that generally doesn’t have products marked up.  The community is not trying to rip each other off, but rather help out one another.
I use threadless as an example of a user-generated-content community which thrive in in the online medium.  Use this case study as a model for launching a project or product that taps into online communities, and creates value for its users.
Have you come across any other similar communities?  Or other offshoots of threadless that i haven’t mentioned?  Comments are always welcome.

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