Social Media Business ModelThreadless, a Chicago T-shirt company, sprang to life a decade ago with the idea that employees and customers don’t have to be two distinct groups. The Internet-based company asks consumers to submit shirt designs they’ve created–it gets as many as 300 submissions a day–and allows its large fan base to vote on the ones they like best. It pays winners, more than 300 each year, $2,000 for their creations. The company picks the best of the most popular T-shirt designs, screens them for copyright violations and obscenities, and sells them on its site within three to eight weeks for $18. It aims to release seven new designs a week.

The business model works beautifully for this 50-person company, which brought in close to $30 million in revenue in 2009. Threadless, with 1.5 million followers on Twitter and 100,000 fans on Facebook, is also masterful at using social media to promote its designs and designers–and to keep its community engaged. To read the full story as well as an interview with the vice president of markting at Threadless, click here –