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LIANE HANSEN, host:

With back-to-school season under way, many retailers are turning to a newfound marketing force: The phenomenon of Online Haul videos. The videos feature young women sitting before webcams, and sharing with the world everything they bought, or hauled home, from the mall.

Ms. BLAIR FOWLER (Online Hauler): Next, I got this little - not jacket, not shirt, not shawl, I dont know, not cardigan cause it doesnt button or anything - it's just long sleeves...

HANSEN: That's Blair Fowler, one of the more popular haulers. Her YouTube channel has drawn more than 75 million views. That's the kind of captive audience fashion retailers can't ignore.

For more, we turn to Beverly Macy. She's a marketing executive who teaches social media marketing at the UCLA Business and Management Extension Program. She's at NPR West in Culver City, California. Welcome to the show.

Professor BEVERLY MACY (UCLA): Thank you.

HANSEN: Are retailers involved in this at all?

Prof. MACY: Absolutely - Forever 21, T.J.Maxx, lots of retailers are beginning to really take notice. And what's beginning to happen is we're seeing that some of these bloggers, especially the more popular ones, will say at the beginning of the vlog, so, JCPenneys gave me this $1,000 gift certificate and I got 10 outfits.

HANSEN: It seems the companies are maybe taking some risks in letting these young fashionistas have a role in their marketing. I mean, you know, you get a gift certificate or something or what if their product gets panned, and that goes viral?

Prof. MACY: Well, that's a really good point. So, what we like to say is reviews are the new advertising. And so this idea that people just like me will talk about a product that matters to me. And the risk, as you mention, is that they're going to like it and they might also not like it.

But what the social media sphere is all about is authenticity. So, the retailers are willing to take the risk that the reviewer, so to speak - the young girls in this case - will be very honest and their audience will appreciate the honesty.

HANSEN: Are more companies embracing social media as an established business practice, instead of, say, just a fleeting trend?

Prof. MACY: You know, that is the question of the day, and the answer is, yes, they are. So, brands are trying to, obviously, find the return on investment. In the case of the teen haulers, if you've got an audience of 20,000, 30,000, 40,000 people that are going to watch what you have to say and they are people who are going to potentially buy the product, again, that is a return on investment.

And, think about it, the brand is not spending very much money to do this. So, it's a pretty good deal for everybody.

HANSEN: Beverly Macy. Her forthcoming book is titled, "The Power of Real Time Social Media Marketing." She joined us from NPR West in Culver City, California. Thank you.

Prof. MACY: Thank you.

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