Graphic Alliance was recently featured in a report about luxury brands and social media, by WGSN (research, trend analysis and news service for the fashion industry). The two-part report looked at the challenges that luxury brands face when it comes to social media, and then outlined practical ways in which these brands could overcome these challenges to develop successful presences on social media platforms. It was quite an interesting read, and, as WGSN is only available to subscribers, I have summarised the key points below, and commented on the issues/ideas raised.
Traditonally, luxury brands try to maintain an air of exclusivity, whereas social media is about openess and inclusiveness. The challenge is finding ways to marry the two. The WGSN article quotes Forbes: “Image is everything to luxury fashion companies. Preserving prestige is what sets brands such as Gucci and Hermes apart from Gap and H&M [we would add the price!]. But the same elitism is keeping certain luxury brands from engaging in social media, one of the most powerful forms of marketing at the moment.”
Where once, social networks were the playgrounds of spotty teenagers and internet geeks, recent statistics show that social network audiences are diversifying. WGSN highlights a few of these stats:
- There are now over 300 million Facebook users, of which women over 55 are the fastest growing demographic
- 42% of Twitter users are bewteen 35 – 49
- 96% of Generation Y (who Forbes calls “the next generation of luxury consumers”) are using social media
- Over half of the US and UK population use social networks
- Twitter recently signed social search deals with Google and Microsoft, meaning that Twitter search results will now be featured on the first page of Google, in a similar fashion to Google news results
So, what do these statistics mean? Well, firstly, it is likely that even as a luxury brand a large number of your potential consumers are, or will be in the near future, using a social network. Secondly, the Google/Microsoft and Twitter deal means that now, what people say about your brand on Twitter will become VERY important, because everytime someone searches for your brand online, they will be subjected to the latest tweets… So effectively, the above statistics mean – social media can no longer be ignored.
So, what to do, and how to do it?
This is where we feature in the article. We told WGSN about our work on Facebook with luxury Kings Rd. boutique Austique. As WGSN reports: “One of Facebook’s advantages is that it is very visual and interactive in nature; therefore brands can provide this content in lots of different and exciting ways. Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana are just some of the luxury fashion brands to have done so, using it to share photos, videos and even product widgets, in turn driving consumers back to their own transactional websites.
But Facebook can work for smaller luxury brands too. Natasha Ighodaro, who looks after online PR and social media for Graphic Alliance, explains how it set up a Facebook for luxury London boutique Austique.
Though it has just 500 fans (to put this in context Louis Vuitton currently has over 750,000), the majority of these are target audience due to the very targeted way it promoted its presence on the site [we promoted it through friends of the brand and brand ambassadors]. The outcome of this approach is that 23.9% of all online sales this month have come from Facebook click-throughs.”
To expand on this, the page was grown through friends and customers of the brand who had a strong presence on Facebook. They were asked to invite their network to join the page, the likelyhood (and actuality) being that the fanbase would be more likely to purchase from Austique. Secondly, customer service was, and still is, a focus on the Facebook page, which we think is another reason why sales are generated from the page.
Our MD here at Graphic Alliance, Linford Haggie, says: “Customer service is just one defining quality of luxury. Yet this is perhaps where social media can play its biggest role. Great customer service in-store makes us feel happy and content and satisfied. Why not offer the same highly personal service down social media channels?”
WGSN say that brands must adopt a strategic approach based on how the sites are used by consumers (rather than just jumping on the bandwagon) to achieve optimum results. We would agree with that.
With the above in mind, they offer the following tips, amongst others, for social media engagement:
- Adopt the 80/20 message rule – devote 80% of your social media content to inform, inspire, amuse and connect with your fans, and 20% of your content to product driven messages
- Inject personality – brands such as Alexander McQueen (@McQueenworld on Twitter) have found this this works really well in terms of engageing their audience
- Build a story – a brand is more than the products it sells, and social media can be a great platform to tell stories which build a brand’s identity and history
WGSN end the article by saying: “For luxury brands to be successful, a joined-up approach across the internet and mobile internet will become ever more crucial. Linking the various digital options (Facebook and Twitter icons on websites, website addresses feature prominently on soical network pages and so on) will help brands achieve their ultimate aim – to immerse consumers increasingly in the brand and eventually drive them to the checkout.”
Our take home points are:
- You don’t need to have a million fans on Facebook to see the dividends of social media engagement (quite the contrary for luxury brands – we suggest that less is more when it comes to fans or followers, the focus should be on service)
- You don’t have to embark on a huge social media strategy to see the effects of social media. Employ tactics that work for you
- Social media marketing can be measurable (Google analytics tell us exactly where our client’s traffic is coming from)
- Social media CAN impact your bottom line