Social media marketers in the fashion industry have an incredible range of opportunities to achieve success for their brands. Clothing is intrinsically an exciting product to sell; it can be highly diverse, deeply intimate and communicate a wide variety of emotions. Your job is to cultivate a unique and enticing identity for your brand and to encourage your fans to engage with that brand, cultivating and innovating right along with you. The bulk of this research blog has been focused on identifying the best practices and latest trends of social media marketing for fashion. Now it is time to take a look at the big picture, and figure out just what to take away from all this.
Before online content is created, you need to know where it is going to go. There are a multitude of social media platforms available with many millions of users, and every platform has its own unique characteristics that determine which content will work best. Making the choice of platform is one of the most important steps in the marketing process, and it is necessary to know which option will maximize the success of your content. An article from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising summarizes quite well the trends that will inform these choices. Because we are working in the fashion industry, social media platforms that heavily feature visual content are often the best choice. Instagram, Snap (formerly Snapchat) and Pinterest are among the most prominent of this platform category. Instagram in particular has become one of the most important social media sites for fashion designers, and another article from LaunchMetrics notes the ways in which the photo-based platform has revolutionized the fashion industry. The quickly accessible volume of photos that will accumulate on any Instagram profile together tell a story; for a designer, they build a portfolio for their brand.
But things never stay the same for long on the internet. Trends come and go, and it is paramount to understand how and why these changes happen, and who drives them. With consumers and internet users being as resistant as they are to marketing, messages that are perceived as outdated or out of touch with reality don’t stand a chance. Staying relevant means carefully anticipating the changes to come. For example, some trends for 2017 that seem likely to come true are the increasing marketing potential of Snap which has led the charge in allowing for sharing personal and intimate content between consumers and brands, and the continued decline of Twitter. Superficiality seems to be making way for more detailed, nuanced user experiences on social media, and this particular trend means that more will be asked of social media marketing content creators in crafting their messages than ever before.
Fashion has been deeply divided along gender lines since humans began clothing themselves, but that is in the process of changing. Gender neutral designing is becoming more common, and the traditional model of separating men and women’s fashion into two seasons is fading. Gucci announced in April that instead of holding two separate catwalk shows for men and women in 2016, it would combine them into a single event. Just as these changes have been occurring in the highest levels of the fashion sphere, the way designers brand and market themselves on social media has been shifting as well.
A driving factor behind the breakdown of gender-based branding on social media seems to be the need for deeper and more specific audience interaction. The Harvard Business Review wrote an article focused on the concept of crowdcultures, online communities based around a single topic or ideology. These subcultures are often shaped by larger demographic traits such as gender or race but represent more specific interests that can be especially informative to social media marketers. Crowdcultures are useful because they naturally make themselves available to marketing; the communication channels that define their existence provide strategic information and the means to reach that audience.
However, it is impractical and terribly inefficient to create customized marketing campaigns for every niche Internet culture. Effective social media marketing needs to strike a balance between breadth and depth. The choices we make when targeting audiences need to be informed by the wider demographics at play, as well as how well that audience meshes with the corporate identity and image. Social media marketing shines when it is personal in nature because personal connections are what users crave, especially female users.
Identifying who the major influencers are for a targetable audience is an important step in being able to effectively reach that audience. Collaboration with those influencers is the best way to tap into that specific culture and to create a personal and emotional connection with the audience. The connection needs to be more than superficial if it’s going to be effective; a long-term attachment between a subculture and a brand communicates an authenticity that simply couldn’t be accomplished otherwise. The social media marketer’s goal should be to cultivate and develop the relationship between the corporate culture and the consumer culture. A genuine relationship will communicate an emotional value that consumers seek and respect.
Throughout its existence, Calvin Klein has relied on one tried and true principle of marketing: sex sells. It was as true 50 or 100 years ago as it is today. However, social media marketing requires that we go beyond simple portrayals and add some depth and interactivity to supplement these primal laws. Calvin Klein’s latest social media campaign represents a brilliant and highly successful strategy for activating and engaging a fan base.
#MyCalvins was a campaign started in early 2014 which focused on getting social media users and influencers to share images of themselves in Calvin Klein underwear using the aforementioned hashtag. The foundation was a collection of black-and-white photos featuring Justin Bieber and model Lara Stone sporting CK waistband-branded underwear and denim. These images hearken back to Calvin Klein’s advertising past, such as the 1992 print ads featuring Mark Wahlberg and Kate Moss shot in nearly identical style to the modern renditions. Building off the success of the past allowed this campaign to bring something familiar and effective to audiences before adding the twist of interaction.
Following the release of the photo ads from the brand itself, a number of high profile influencers (such as Fergie and Kendall Jenner) on Instagram put the social media campaign into motion by sharing pictures of their own Calvins. Millions of Instagram- and Twitter-users were inspired by these social media icons and began replicating the images themselves. Before long the Internet was awash in images of young, fit Millenials posing in their Calvin Klein underwear.
Whether judged by its global reach of 469 million or the brand’s millions of new followers across multiple social media platforms, the #MyCalvins campaign was among the most successful hashtag campaign ever seen. While the celebrity endorsements and official marketing releases were important and effective, they were only the keys to the ignition of this marketing machine. It was the 23.5 million fan interactions that made the campaign a major accomplishment, which clearly demonstrates that it is the consumer and not the marketer that makes a social media campaign successful.
Celebrities are the ultimate influencers. For as long as advertising has existed, brands have been chasing after valuable endorsements from pop culture icons in hopes of tapping into their enormous influence. Money and power may have made them famous, but those aren’t the reasons why endorsements are valuable. The simple reason why celebrity endorsements are so widely sought is that when they talk, people listen.
We’re all used to seeing our favorite athletes and actors show up in TV and magazine ads. The reasons for using these types of endorsements are well established. According to an article from Forbes, a single celebrity endorsement can raise sales by around 4% almost immediately, regardless of the product or the endorser. It can also raise stock values and inspire confidence in stakeholders. However, the modern communication environment is more complex than it used to be, and so is the prospect of using celebrity endorsements.
It’s common knowledge at this point that having a social media presence is a necessity for any company interested in marketing, but the best practices for social media marketing may not be so common. It turns out that celebrity endorsements are just as, if not more effective when incorporated into social media marketing. A study by Brand Affinity Technologies found that celebrity-endorsed posts are 50% more cost-effective in activating audiences than non-endorsed ones and have clickthrough-rates 21 times higher. These are impressive numbers, but why does this work?
Jennifer Lueck writes about a concept called Parasocial Interaction. This refers to the way in which fans interact with their favorite celebrities on social media. Celebrities who are highly active on social networks, such as Kim Kardashian, have millions of followers. It is virtually impossible to get to know or even have any sort of personal interaction with a fraction of those fans. However, because of the personal and intimate nature of celebrity posts, fans often feel as if they personally know and have a relationship with these social media icons. They feel like a part of the celebrity’s life, knowing roughly the same amount of information about them as most people know about their real life friends. This familiarity and attachment creates very loyal and engaged followers, which is exactly what social media marketers are seeking. This explains why, when Kim Kardashian’s followers see an Instagram post from her featuring a new lipstick she’s in love with, they are 21 times more likely to click through and investigate that product; it’s essentially a recommendation from a friend, rather than an impersonal marketing message.
Social media marketing is all about activating and energizing your audience, motivating them to do the marketing for you. Having a celebrity endorse your product on social media is like gaining a mutual friend with millions of people. That is why celebrity endorsements are an approach every social media marketer should look for opportunities to incorporate.
We live in turbulent times. The world is only a few decades into the digital age, and yet we have already seen drastic changes in the technological and social characteristics of the online environment. From intranet to internet, email to social media, web 1.0 to 2.0, individuals and organizations have had to learn and adapt quickly to rapidly changing technologies. And there is no reason to believe that change will be coming any slower in the future.
It is incredibly important and often challenging for corporations to determine how to navigate these technologies, especially concerning communication. To be fair, public relations and marketing professionals have done outstanding work so far in adapting their communication practices to new media. However, there is always growth to be achieved and better practices to establish. If we want to measure the success of social media communication in economic terms, consider the following: a July 2016 survey found that a little over half (55.3%) of social media users polled reported that a brand’s social media presence has some effect on whether they buy that brand’s products during the holiday season.
It’s safe to say that while basic reach- and awareness-based communication has its place, it is inevitable that corporate communication can and will evolve far beyond this paradigm in the coming years. Lee and Taylor write about homo dialogicus – a communication framework based on conversation between consumer and corporation as equal participants. Essentially, this new model of corporate communication posits that organizations need to talk less and listen more, empathize with their constituent groups and interact with stakeholders, customers and the general public alike in a genuine and respectful manner. If you like the way this sounds but are unsure about how to affect these changes in your business or organization, a good place to start is changing up how your organization communicates internally. These basic tips of creating time for conversation, creating and sharing a lexicon, introducing a dashboard, challenging your colleagues and sticking to meeting times, will help you master internal corporate communication that can be applied to communication with external audiences as well.
Regardless of the industry, understanding how to communicate effectively in the modern online environment is vital. Companies that understand how to not only reach their audiences but engage and interact with them will only become more successful as social media become more complex, more personal, and more powerful. In order to succeed at this communication, we have to look beyond the technology and address the people first.