Fashion and Social Media: Better Late Than Never

January 20, 2010

burberryThe other day a friend sent me an article about the fashion industry’s involvement in social media that was pretty interesting and completely reinforces the best practice belief that social media involvement has to be a two-way street.  Zeta Interactive conducted a study to determine the luxury fashion brands with the best online reputation in 2009.  While Gucci had the highest amount of online mentions, it also had the lowest sentiment.  After diving a little deeper, I discovered that their Facebook page, while touting an impressive amount of fans, does a poor job of creating two-way engagement.  And their Twitter account could not be less compelling.  Pulling a quick Twitalyzer report confirmed my impression- their Engagement and Generosity scores were nonexistent.  I think this is a universal social media lesson: just showing up isn’t enough.  Brands need to connect with consumers on a deeper level.  Simply pushing out content is not enough.  And though the rest of the fashion industry has been late to the social media scene, they’re here now and are looking to do some really cool things.

The initial emphasis has been on communities and brand-specific social networks.  The majority of the fashion industry thought that this was tacky and might negate the aspirational lifestyle they like to portray.  But brands like American Apparel, TopShop and other younger, independent designers were early adopters and have been able to prove the benefits.

While Twitter and Facebook are great for mass messaging, many of the luxury lines have developed their own social networks, creating a more exclusive feel that extends the brand’s real-life persona.  Many of these niche communities have resulted in significant ROI, as these spaces generate brand loyalty.

The activation of fashion bloggers has also become a widely used, acceptable tactic.  Dolce and Gabbana have dominated this space with the best overall online buzz- a large amount of conversation with highly positive sentiment.  Zeta Interactive attributes this to the brand’s proactive pursuit of bloggers, flying them to their runway shows in Milan.  Not a bad way to get a few glowing blog posts from highly influential fashion bloggers.

User-generated content is an essential part of a successful social media and fashion relationship, driving the conversation between brand and consumer across all of the social platforms.  Some efforts that I think are noteworthy:

  • G-Star Raw is currently running a contest as a means of recruiting fashion reporters for New York Fashion Week in February 2010.  They ask: “Can you blog, Twitter, Flickr or Facebook better than mere mortals?”  Applicants can prove their skills (and clout) via Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube.  This is an effective way of getting online influencers to come to them, creating buzz in the process.  Users also have the ability to vote on the reporters they would like to see win.
  • Kate Spade has created a “tweetwriter”- a combination of “Twitter” and a “typewriter.”  The Tweetwriter is actually an antique typewriter that they have set up in their Fifth Avenue store where they encourage shoppers to type messages that are then posted on the Kate Spade Twitter account.  The goal is to convey their customers’ collective point of view.  I think this is a really compelling mash-up of real-life and online engagement.
  • Burberry’s Art of the Trench site is simple.  Users are able to upload pictures of themselves wearing Burberry’s signature piece, the trench coat.  This concept allows Burberry to breathe some new life into a product that was becoming antiquated.

As the fashion industry moves into 2010, more brands will adopt a social media strategy as part of their marketing efforts.  Real-time will be a huge factor, as the amount of content that marketing and PR agencies can put out will be an increasingly small portion of what is being said.  The development of mobile apps will also increase when these brands look to location-based networks to target their shoppers locally.

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