Early Adopters

Supermodel Coco Rocha’s Social Media Game Is On Some Other Level

"Vine? There’s not many of us on there. Not a lot of models. So who you gonna pick as a model? You’ll pick me. Because I’m your only model."
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(Photo: Coco Rocha/Instagram)

As a supermodel–and here Betabeat can only conjecture–the product you’re selling, essentially, is you. Your matchstick stems, all the places you go, your cool attitude = you. Therefore, as with most celebrities (and increasingly regular humans) run-of-the-mill personal brand building on social media is directly tied to revenue.

But even if Coco Rocha‘s entire extended Canadian family depended on the number of her Instagram followers, you still have to respect the 24-year-old’s commitment. We discovered as much this afternoon at panel run by Decoded Fashion hosted on the mouth of a runway at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.

Glamour editor-in-chief Cindi Leive, who was moderating the talk (called “Fashion and Tech Discuss the Future”), introduced Ms. Rocha by noting that she had amassed millions of followers on 13 different platforms and was “the first model to surpass 1 million followers on Google+.” But Ms. Rocha doesn’t just hang around in ghost towns. She also has 4 million followers in China, “where models are bigger than celebrities,” through Sino Weibo and Tencent Weibo. And she’s active on Vine, the Twitter-owned video sharing app that launched just last month.

“If you’re the first one on a platform, you notice your numbers will grow immensely,” Ms. Rocha explained. “And Vine? There’s not many of us on there. Not a lot of models. So who you gonna pick as a model? You’ll pick me. Because I’m your only model.” After that, she added, you just watch the dominos fall. “Why does she have so many numbers? I should follow her! I believe that’s how it works,” she said modestly, raising and lowering her silver-rimmed stilettos from the ledge of a clear formica stool.

She also claimed to manage the enterprise by her lonesome. “My content is from me. It’s not some PR firm that’s deciding to sell other things. It’s me and my voice and I think only I know it best. Some people can pretend to be someone else and that’s okay, great for them.”

“You have to be all the platforms,” Ms. Rocha added later. “Because the Tumblr followers? They are a cult. The Twitter followers? They are a cult. You think, ‘Well, I have Twitter so I’m hitting everyone.’ No, you’re not. You need Vine, Viddy, Sino Weibo, Tencent Weibo, Tumblr, Twitter. And all of them have their own identity.”

That kind of platform-agnostic gumption earns you high praise–like being called “not just a hanger but a brand all by herself,” from Zac Posen in the New York Times, which delved into how Ms. Rocha has been able use her social media presence to secure deals.

Other notables were on the panel this afternoon, such as Tumblr’s fashion evangelist Valentine Uhovski and Kevin Kollenda, founder of Two Hustlers, the agency “instrumental in bringing Lady Gaga to Barney’s last year.” (Gaga collaborator Nicola Formichetti is his cofounder.) With his charcoal suit and graffiti baseball hat, Mr. Kollenda certainly looked the part. But it was hard to take our eyes off Ms. Rocha, the only panelist with an iPhone on the table, inches within reach.

She appeared from back stage in an orange sherbert-colored blazer and an orange sherbert blouse with gold buttons that caught the light and set off her goth-y red hair. Beneath her black skinny jeans, the heel of her shoes looked as thin and lethal as a knitting needle. We also detected some classic symptoms of social media withdrawl: the girl was fidgety–pursing her lips, crossing and uncrossing her ankles, twisting her hands together into a tangle of black nail polish.

“I’m talking about the power houses,” she said, leaning in toward Ms. Leivie explaining that the old industry stalwarts are reluctant to embrace tech like 3D-printing or laser etching, even though that is the direction fashion is heading.

Asked if she had any advice for social media aspirants, Ms. Rocha suggested making the content you share beautiful. “We’re in an industry where we’re all about beautiful. So Instagram, like I said fuzzy photos don’t work. As much as you’re saying, ‘I’m at Michael Kors and I’m front row’–fantastic, good for you. But they don’t care about that fuzzy photo. You have to make sure that it is in fact great content. So for me, I take 10, 15 photos. I filter 5, 6. I pick one. That is a lot of time.”

We suppose that means this isn’t her Snapchat?

Follow Nitasha Tiku on Twitter or via RSS. ntiku@observer.com