Twitter. Facebook. YouTube. MySpace. Flickr. Chictopia. LookBook. HypeDiss. Chictini. Kaboodle. ThisNext. StyleHive... It took me few minutes to count up all of the social networks that I am a part of (18, I think) -I personally got started on friendster, back in the day! There are so many options in social media and networking, and while many brands have gotten on-board, as I've mentioned time and again, fashion and luxury brands have taken a backseat on the action.
The irony of this is obvious- these brands are supposed to be the leaders in what is cool, not the followers. However, pressure from 2 sides of the spectrum has led many fashion brands to get moving in social media:
- Baby Boomers are moving out of the market and into retirement, and brands must now target the emerging market (that's us here in Gen X & Y). Not only do we live online, but we expect that our favorite brands include us and talk to us. We don't care so much about the branded temples of retail flagships, though they're nice for a minute or two.
- According to Forrester Research, 2/3 of Facebook's 200 million users are post-college age, with the +35 group growing the fastest.
- Twitter, which had 20 million unique visitors just last month, estimates that 42% of its users are 35-49 and 20% are 25-34.
- If you build it, they will come. If you don't build it, someone else will. Many brands avoided the online forum for fear of losing control of their message. Then they lost control of their message... other players went online and spoke for them with no official brand representation or rebuttal.
Enter the Worldwide Web of Fashion
Finally, fashion brands are entering the playing field, using social media to build their brand image and community online.
Today's WWD had a great article called Social Media Rewrites the Rules for Brands, exploring this topic:
Fashion houses, designers and retailers are rushing into the free social media phenomenon that is reshaping not only interpersonal communication, but how apparel, accessories and beauty products are marketed and sold.
They are tweeting, blogging and updating their profiles in an effort to mold their brand personalities on real-time global platforms and form relationships with a community of customers, particularly consumers for whom the Web is as important as a limb.
Social media enables brands to provide personalized customer support and drive conversion to retail sites, but it goes further in reinforcing the tribal element of fashion- the inclusive sense of identity that many brand-fans seek when they purchase fashion products.
Customers can feel like they are part of the brand’s extended family, and therefore the brand itself, while the interactive element further deepens that relationship,” said Alex Bolen, chief executive officer of Oscar de la Renta. “These characteristics address and satisfy that ‘tribal’ part of the fashion consumer — the way in which people identify themselves by the brands they buy."
In addition to providing a sense of inclusion, social media enables companies to be a part of the conversation about their brands. They can address controversy, reward loyal fans, and inform customers on everything from sales to upcoming collections, to the details and behind-the-scenes action that goes into producing a fashion line.
Furthermore, social media can provide the very sense of intimacy between a brand and its consumers that the recent consumption-boom and mass-marketization in fashion annihilated.
Keeping Up the Chatter
Virtue, the social media consultancy firm, created a Social Media Index to measure what people were talking about online. They found that the five most talked-about fashion and retail brands online were Gucci, Target, Gap, American Apparel and Urban Outfitters (May 26 - June 1, 2009). Not surprisingly, all of these brands are active in social media and networking, and they update frequently.
The currency of the internet is such that if you're not updating on a timely basis, individuals are disappointed," said Robert Triefus, worldwide marketing and communications director for Gucci. "In fact, it can end up backfiring."
Main point: the brand should be present and interacting online, vigilant to conversations, and constantly adapting to communicate their consistent message in new ways. Furthermore, the company should be prepared to make an investment to create social media worthy of the brand. Generic doesn't fly in the fashion/luxury community.
Another important point is that it is critical for brands to state when a social media page is OFFICIAL. Otherwise, it's often hard to tell if it's coming from the company or a third party, particularly with so many fan sites out there!
Social Media Brand Directory for Fashion
I took the WWD Twitter directory, added some brands, and expanded into Facebook and a little MySpace. If you know of any additional brands/sites that should be included, please let me know! Check it out...