Are the rules of social media no longer relevant? The luxury fashion industry certainly thinks so - they're breaking all the rules, and it's working.
Social media marketing is no new concept. It’s been around for years, with brands having in-house teams dedicated to managing their social presence, and agencies created solely to provide advice on these channels.
Having worked within social media marketing myself, it can seem that there is a set of rules you should abide by when running business accounts. You only have to do a quick Google search to find the supposed best practice:
1. Post Frequently
This is a balancing act: you don’t want to post so often that people get annoyed and unfollow you. However, you want to post often enough to regularly appear in your followers’ feeds.
Socialbakers recommend that you should post on Facebook between 5-10 times a week for the best results, and three times a day on Twitter.
If you’re concerned that the latest Instagram algorithm will penalise you if you post frequently, then fear no longer, as that myth has been busted.
2. Engage With Followers
The meaning of social media is to inject personality into your brand, right? And what better way to do so, than by connecting with your followers?
We’re told that we should reply to comments on Facebook posts, retweet tweets sent to us, and to like Instagram posts we’ve been tagged in.
It’s what people have come to expect. Research by Search Engine Watch found that 70% of Twitter users expect a reply from brands they’ve messaged, and 53% want a response within the hour.
3. Embrace New Platforms
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram may be the big ones, but there are so many other sites out there. Snapchat, YouTube, Pinterest, WeChat… it can be tempting to try them all, regardless of whether or not you have a clear strategy.
The Rulebreakers of Social Media Marketing
Arguably, rules are there to be broken. And if they’re broken, does that mean they’re no longer relevant?
I wanted to look at how the luxury fashion industry has embraced social media for marketing. There were a couple of reasons for this: firstly, because I love fashion, and secondly, because I feel that the industry faces a lot of misconceptions.
There are so many people out there who laugh in the face of fashion, regarding it as “fake” and “fluffy”. Not dissimilar actually, to social media. Just ask a social media marketer what the worst part of their job is, and I guarantee it’ll be having to justify themselves to the rest of the business – repeatedly explaining that social media is an engagement tool, not a sales tool.
To me, fashion and social media seemingly go hand-in-hand. Fashion is based on selling a story, with each brand representing a unique personality. We buy into brands that we like to think reflect our personality. If you want to be chic and sophisticated, then of course it’s Chanel. If you want to be perceived as grungy and cool, then Saint Laurent is the brand for you. Alternatively, if you want to project glamour, then it’s Versace all the way.
Wouldn’t you therefore think, that the best way to showcase these varying personalities is through social media marketing?
Well actually, that’s not the case. I’m going to show you how the luxury fashion industry is breaking those three “golden rules”, and why it’s working for them.
It’s important to note that the following applies to any industry – it’s all a case of knowing who your customers are.
So, let’s see just why those rules are becoming extinct.
Rulebreaker #1: Post Frequently
I conducted some research into how the major luxury fashion brands utilised social media as a marketing channel (to pick the brands, I looked at Deloitte’s Global Powers of Luxury Goods 2017).
… that figure Socialbakers recommended, about posting on Twitter three times a day (aka 93 times a month)? Not true!
The four major Fashion Weeks were held over September and October, so because of these skewed results, I showed figures from both months for comparison. Nevertheless, it’s clear to see that postage frequency is much lower than the recommended ideal.
Balenciaga posted just twice in October, yet they have over 700,000 Twitter followers.
This inactivity is a conscious decision, and it works. But why? Well, luxury fashion is all about exclusivity. After all, you wouldn’t buy a Burberry mac if every other person was wearing one, would you?
Exclusivity equals aloofness. Luxury fashion brands don’t want to reveal too much on social media, because all of a sudden, everyone is granted access to their world. They’ve become mainstream. That is the death of a luxury fashion brand.
Apply this to your brand: how do your website and emails portray you? Do you position yourself as exclusive, or are you more open with your customers? Your brand positioning should be consistent across all channels – including social media.
Now, consider your customers: how active are they on social media, and do they engage with you, and other brands?
This will determine your frequency of posting. If you want followers to have total access to your brand, and they actively engage with you, then by all means, post frequently. However, if you portray yourself as high-end or exclusive, or your followers on social media don’t respond well to being bombarded with posts, then tone it down.
Rulebreaker #2: Engage With Followers
The 70% of Twitter followers who expect a reply from brands will be very disappointed if they’ve tweeted a luxury fashion brand.
We’ve already established that remaining exclusive and aloof are crucial for luxury fashion brands. What better way to be aloof than by staying silent?
That’s what luxury fashion brands are doing, and it’s working. They’ve just broken the second rule of social media marketing.
With over 37.8 million Twitter followers between those ten brands, people just can’t get enough. In fact, Chanel, Saint Laurent and Balenciaga have a 0% engagement rate, yet followers are still having conversations about them, and showcasing their support.
So, what level of engagement should you apply to your followers? Whilst your brand may not be totally exclusive, who has the time to retweet and reply to absolutely everything? Having one person working in social media marketing as opposed to three will drastically cut your capacity.
Also, you need to think about your followers. It’s very self-promotional to retweet every single compliment that’s said about your brand, and will that add any value for your followers? Probably not. They’ll probably unfollow you.
Whilst it’s common courtesy to respond to customer queries or complaints (a quick “please private message/DM me your details and I’ll take a look” is the best bet, to get any negative feedback away from the public eye), you shouldn’t be made to feel that you have to engage with everyone.
Rulebreaker #3: Embrace New Platforms
If you work in social media marketing, you’ll understand the excitement when a new social media channel is launched.
However, it’s better to be active on a couple of channels, and run them successfully; as opposed to spreading yourself too thinly across all sites, and not doing any of them particularly well.
Enter Céline. The embodiment of Parisian chic at its finest, they’re not known by everyone like Gucci and Dior, but they don’t want to be. Who is the Céline woman? She’s into fashion, but she’s understated, sophisticated. She hates being flashy, much preferring classic, good quality items and muted colours.
For Céline, having a minimal social media presence makes sense. Whilst they joined Instagram back in February 2017 just days before their Paris Fashion Week show, they don’t have an official Twitter account or Facebook page.
And that makes total sense. After all, the Céline woman isn’t going to shout to the whole world that she’s just bought a beautiful Luggage Tote in black (aka The Most Beautiful Bag in the World). That’s why Céline doesn’t do flashy logos – a brand devotee will instantly recognise a Céline design, and quietly acknowledge it.
Therefore, Céline will act in the same way that their customers do. They don’t want to be known by the masses. Instead, they want to be worn by fashionistas, to be quietly recommended by word-of-mouth, and have a loyal customer base for life. Social media marketing is simply not for Céline.
Whilst Céline takes it to the extreme, it’s so important to keep your customer at the front of your mind when determining your social media strategy. You need to know which sites your customer uses, and then set up your accounts accordingly.
Why would you be active on Snapchat, when 61% of users are 18-29, and majority female, if your target market is 30-50 year old males?
So, Are the Rules of Social Media Marketing Extinct?
Perhaps that’s a bit dramatic, but those three “golden rules” are not set in stone. What works for one brand, won’t work for another. The luxury fashion industry certainly demonstrates this.
Regardless of which industry you operate in, you should always think of the customer. Find out which social media channels they are active on, and start building your strategy.
Determining the level of engagement and optimum posting frequency will be a case of trial and error – it’s something you’ll learn as you go along.
If there’s one piece of advice to take away, it’s this: just because rules are there, it doesn’t mean they have to be followed. Besides, breaking the rules is fun.
If you’d like to chat about all-things social media marketing, then why not get in touch?