Instagram was designed for visual storytelling. That's a fact. The fashion industry relies on powerful imagery to sell. In some ways, fashion and Instagram were almost destined for each other. The powerful visuals on Instagram are ideal for promoting and evoking expression that's iconic of the fashion industry. Great, so the fashion industry can use it. What about all the other non-fashion focused brands? Is there room for these less trendy brands on Instagram too?
How can a non-visual focused brand use Instagram? Is there a chance for generating revenue off of a social platform?
The answer to all of these questions, yes! There's room for all brands on Instagram. And there's money to be made on it too.
While every fashion brand may not be using Instagram to directly sell to their community, many are doing an amazing job in telling a visual story. Fashion is defined by its ability to allow the creator to express freely. It's changing and fluid. Social media is also. That's what makes Instagram such a great partner in the highly visual focused industry.
Whether the brand is a global clothing company or a boutique glasses vendor, Instagram is an ideal platform for many reasons.
So while many brands continue to determine whether Instagram can be integrated into an overall digital marketing strategy (hint, it can), the fashion industry is successfully leveraging the visual platform for real money.
Here are 6 tips from the fashion industry on how to leverage Instagram for any brand.
(The examples are from my experiences as a consumer)
Backup a Bit: Why Instagram?
Instagram is everywhere. To date, the platform has 300 million users globally, with nearly 75% of them logging in at least once per day. Those are impressive numbers! Pictures are powerful and are being seen by 22.5 million people. That's exposure.
These are strong arguments for the platform and its place in a holistic digital marketing strategy.
With this background, let's look at some lessons the fashion industry offers on using Instagram.
1. Brand Personality
Rule number 1: Be true to your brand! All imagery shared on Instagram should express and resonate with the overall brand voice. Note: If the voice isn't consistent across all digital and traditional media, then there are bigger issues that are a subject for a different post.
The most successful brands are conscious of consistency at all time.
A brand that is able to define its personality with impeccable detail is Twillory. They understand their persona and the value proposition in full detail. Their Instagram account speaks to this persona perfectly.
The brand is traditional, yet trendy. Quality without cutting any corners. It speaks to their legacy with a tip of the hat to the startup and entrepreneurial mindset. Part of their brand enables consumers to donate and re-purpose old shirts for those less fortunate in their career pursuits.
A photo posted by @twillory on Dec 31, 2014 at 8:24am PST
Every business has a unique narrative. A unique selling proposition. Something that distinguishes them from their competition. Instagram is a great platform to share that creativity in the form of a story without much explanation. It's a platform that allows users and brands to share solutions for the products they use. Think of Instagram as a creative form of expression for brands with users submitting great user generated content. Combined, it's a great combination offering valuable insight into how users integrate the products into their lives. I love the unique stories that Charles Thyrwitt tells about their diverse products.
A photo posted by Charles Tyrwhitt (@charlestyrwhitt) on Oct 7, 2014 at 8:25am PDT
3. Go Behind the Scenes
Behind the scenes is the epitome of the fashion industry. It gives customers and fans access to the preparation and build up. Giving backstage passes to an entire customer base is super valuable in the long term.
A photo posted by Charles Tyrwhitt (@charlestyrwhitt) on Nov 17, 2014 at 7:12am PST
4. Community Builder
Instagram has some of the highest engagement rates of all social platforms. Why? Partially because it's highly visual. Partially because the simplicity of the interface. Building community starts, like so many of these digital platforms, with knowing your customers. Yes, for this brands will need to identify their consumer base and listen to their specific needs and interests. This process may take time but it will definitely pay off in sales and market research. And, like Twitter, hashtags make the platform searchable to other users, which brings us to the next lesson. Hashtag Friendly Hashtags let other users search content from other accounts on Instagram. Relevant hashtags, like keywords, yield more impressisions (read sales) since searching hashtags bring more brand attention. While hashtags are confusing to some, the reach potential and relevance makes it a very important aspect of community growth. Relevance is tough to identify. But think of hashtags as an alternative to keywords for Instagram. The more common the word, the higher potential that others are searching for them. Please don't overdo it. Hashtagging can easily be spammy. That's a brand killer. See what others are doing and what key # are using. For more on the art of hashtags here's a great post from Buffer on Instagram.
Here are some ideas about hashtags.
Branded hashtags - This is where brands can leverage the concept for their promotion. It's like a stamp for the brand. The trick with branded hashtags is to use it consistently and across digital platforms to ensure that consumers are seeing it.
Idea hashtags - In this case, the hashtags adds a sense of meaning behind a certain campaign or contest you intend to hold. Specific hashtags - These are the keywords that describe the space or industry. Generic terms like #fashion #mensfashion. By building the community around these keywords, the investment will pay off.
5. User Generated Content and Fan Contribution
Once the community is there, now it's time to let them do the selling for the brand. User Generated Content (UGC) really serves two different purposes. It reduces the barriers between customers and brands. Visuals generated by consumers make the product relatable. While the consumer may not be able to touch or feel the product from their mobile device, a strong visual can be equally as compelling. Inspiration is the other side of UGC. We've all had that moment where we see something and want it. FOMO? That's what UGC taps into that psychology.
6. Generate ROI...on Social?
Now that the consumer is eagerly looking to buy, how can Instagram drive sales? That's the most common question for digital marketing. Where is the ROI of all the tweeting, posting, and engagement? Many digital marketers are still figuring out where the ROI of Instagram is since the platform is not built for conversions. Why?
Because the opportunity for link placements is extremely limited. In fact, there are really only 2 places to integrate links- non of which are very intuitive even for mobile users. 1. Creating a custom location or 2. Placing a link in the bio profile.
Once again, the fashion industry has figured it out.
Fashion guru Michael Kors has developed Like2Buy, which allows users to like specific products and directly order from Instagram. That's right! Just like a picture and it's in your shopping cart! Well there's an e-commerce solution that makes sense and sales driven! An alternative solution is Matches Fashion, which uses the geotagging space to create unique sales codes transforming the social platform into a profit generating engine. Finally, handling revenue can be done with Soldsie. The payment processor responds when a customer comments on a picture. In other words, if the brand posts a sale through Soldsie, a customer can write Sold and the purchase is complete (customer needs to have a registered account).
Either way, the visual platform is now a sales funnel.
More than anything else, Instagram is a very powerful social media platform for brands to convey a compelling visual story. Like all digital platforms, success depends not only on creativity but consistentcy. No brand, fashion or other, was built in a day. Take the time to do Instagram and social media right!