The article first appeared on Business of Fashion.
LONDON, United Kingdom — Social media has become the key conduit between brands and consumers. Even Céline, until last year a rare Instagram holdout among major luxury labels, now has over one million followers hoping to catch a glimpse of the brand’s latest handbags and knitwear.
But there’s no guarantee anywhere near that number will actually see Céline’s products. As platforms become more saturated, brands are engaged in an ever-escalating fight to stand out in feeds. Their competition ranges from rivals to celebrities and influencers — not to mention users’ own friends and family.
The rules are also constantly changing. Social networking platforms frequently tweak the algorithms that determine what surfaces in users’ feeds. Facebook earlier this year began promoting “meaningful interactions,” a phrase many brands are still trying to parse.
Snapchat introduced a radical redesign of its app late last year to more clearly distinguish content produced by advertisers and ordinary users. Mark Zuckerberg spent two days in Washington this week being grilled by lawmakers about the dangers of giving third parties too much access to the social network’s members.
So where does that leave the fashion industry? Even amid a landscape of constant change, brands and consultants say a few tried-and-true methods still pack a punch.
One size does not fit all
Within fashion, Instagram remains “the place to be,” accounting for about 50 percent of brand posts (up from 30 percent two years ago), according to a 2017 report by Exane BNP Paribas.
Even so, companies are abandoning broad social media strategies for tailored campaigns targeting a single platform. That can mean producing visually rich images for Instagram while documenting spontaneous (or spontaneous-seeming) moments with Instagram Stories or Snapchat, and hiring a quick-witted Twitter team to handle customer-service complaints.
Tatcha founder Victoria Tsai said people will read more on Facebook, so the beauty brand posts product news and links to blog posts there. Instagram is for photos of products, which often prompt questions from the community. Tatcha has two social media managers, but Tsai said she treats Snapchat as her own “open inbox,” where she’ll respond personally to customers’ stories and questions.
Gucci produces a steady stream of campaigns tailored to different social media platforms. The brand’s #GucciGram project asked illustrators to create images that repurposed Gucci motifs on Instagram, while its #24HourAce invited a series of artists to take over their Snapchat channel for 24 hours, shooting videos inspired by its popular Ace sneaker.
To engage your community, engage with your community
Often, brands approach digital marketing in a similar way to print advertising, with a goal of getting as many people as possible to view brand-related content. However, when it comes to social media, active engagement trumps passive consumption: the primary aim should be to get your audience to talk back.
“[It’s] an opportunity to build deeper relationships,” explains Tatcha’s Tsai. “We consider social media a place for education and taking care of our clients. Although we regularly share content, a lot of the action happens in comments and through direct messages.”
Fashion Nova “has a small army of individuals whose only job is working with both influencers and consumers to provide really cool direct brand experiences,” says Connor Begley, co-founder of Tribe Dynamics, a marketing technology firm that quantifies the dollar-value of digital content and works with a number of fashion and beauty brands that span luxury and mass. For example, if a customer tags Fashion Nova in a photo where they are wearing a new pair of the brand’s jeans, the brand will reach out directly to that customer via a like, a comment or even a repost.
Influencers are unavoidable
Certainly, many brands have ramped up interactions with influencers. According to a survey of 600 fashion industry professionals by the data analytics provider Launchmetrics, some 78 percent of brands implemented influencer marketing campaigns in 2017, up from 65 percent the previous year.
But the question today is not whether to work with influencers, but how to work with influencers. The goal is to maintain a relationship with social media power users — big and small — to steer a conversation about a brand that might be happening anyway.
“If you don’t have a relationship, then you don’t have any participation or any voice in the conversation, so you don’t have any ability to shape the conversation,” Begley said.
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