Why fashion brands can’t afford to ignore social media

There is a new dynamic emerging between fashion brands and the consumer – and it’s an important one. Now, brands are interacting with their fans, an interaction once regarded as mainly for the insiders, magazines and retailers. Fashion brands are able to place themselves in the same spaces as their consumers, and stay visible by appearing on their Facebook walls and Twitter feeds. And consumers want this interaction. Luxury consumers enjoy engaging with and talking about brands online, and fashion brands fall right into this category.

This new, unmediated access to fashion is increasing our exposure to new designers and labels which is increasing our purchasing options beyond what we’d see in a monthly magazine. Fashion is an inherently social topic – people are constantly talking (and writing) about it online. For example, we see our friends ‘liking’ Celine Rita or Twenty Seven Names on Facebook so perhaps we ‘like’ them too. Now they’re appearing in our feeds, and we can comment and interact, which inches those brands closer to the tops of our minds. Lesser known brands can gain traction at a faster pace through this increased visibility, and their connecting with individuals on social media makes them far more relevant at a much faster pace.

This interaction is great for the brands, but what carries even more weight is the power of user-generated content. That is people writing about the designers and their collections, writing reviews and posting photographs of them wearing the product. Fashion brands stand to gain a lot from supporting bloggers in particular. The influence of fashion blogs, and their significance as a media channel, is increasing as major blogs can have over 10,000 hits per day. That’s a huge number of people seeking out inspiration and advice on their search for the next big thing.

Iconic Kiwi label Stolen Girlfriends Club, for example, reported receiving around 50,000 hits after being mentioned on popular fashion blog Fashion Toast and they’ve backed bloggers ever since. NZ jewellery designer, Meadowlark, used this to their advantage, asking four of their favourite fashion bloggers (influential bloggers with a large reach) to design an exclusive ring for Meadowlark. The collaboration collectively obtained hundreds of comments and thousands of views for the brand, and put them in front of a global audience from the blogs of some very influential people.

Consumers have so much choice when it comes to fashion, and those items that receive a lot of attention do sell. Ruby’s Wednesday dress has sold out since appearing on Fashion Toast. Interacting and encouraging user generated content stimulate this process, and so brands need to start interacting and finding ways to encourage this content in order to get that sell-out word-of-mouth.

Fashion brands stand to gain a lot from interacting and being social. They have an audience with an inexhaustible desire to know more about their products, and ignoring the power of social media to make use of this sounds almost crazy. While aesthetic may win in fashion every time, brands that interact, encourage user-generated content and keep themselves in the forefront of the consumer’s minds and eyes are the ones that are going to stick.

[Image credit: Designer Direction)

Editor in Chief at here SMNZ, I have a passion for social and digital media. When not writing and managing SMNZ I am the Head of Innovation at TAG The Agency, a digital ad agency and the Head of Sales and Marketing for End-Game, a software development agency. I'm also involved with a number of startups and I am always keen to support those that are bold enough to give things a go. Start something, better to try than to live wondering what if...

2 Comments

  1. Thomas Scovell Reply

    Nice article Joanne. I think the fashion industry has had a head start in terms of digital social media being an industry so led by public relationships and personalities. These translate well to social digital channels. Some of the blogger-outreach you mention is great and I've seen numerous examples.

    My partner runs an eyewear blog and its interesting to see the difference between practitioners who "get it" when they contact her, and those who simply fling a standard/generic press release at her and expect it to get attention.

    Definitely involving advocates/influencers in the design process is one great way. Though in the end, too much of this can dilute your brand – as fashion brands are all about the lead designer being an arbiter of taste. They have to be seen to say what is "cool" and not be overly led by their customers. It's a definite balancing act.

    And I'm as impressed by less interactive but more cleanly executed digital efforts like Top Man's newsletters that feature catalogue updates and visual/video media that put the clothing in context, letting me know _why_ I should like it.

    My only small quibble with your post, what is a "hit"? Is that short-hand for a unique visitor to the site, or a download of an individual file off a site (i.e. 1 unique visitor = 100s of hits). I once had to go through a site's analytics and calculate how many actual file hits a unique visitor generated roughly so I could let a certain government minister report back during question time just how many "millions of hits" his new site had generated – simply because he'd promised performance in a very old-style and inaccurate measurement prior to launch. So not fun.

    I think with social media it's particularly important where quantitative measurements are reported that we are consistent and accurate with them or the standard argument about SMM being difficult to determine ROI looks true. (And it's not!)

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