Though promoting most companies on social media is difficult, it looks like fashion brands have it easy.
I mean, they have real stuff to work with: clothes. And even on their own, clothing makes for great, eye-catching content. Put them on a model though and then you’ve got a great aspirational photo.
Then taking it one step further, you can encourage your customers to submit their own pics and suddenly you have some custom-made, shareable posts for just about every platform.
Sounds great right?
Of course it’s not that simple. Fashion brands face the same challenges that other industries do in capturing, engaging and keeping their audiences on social media.
And should they come up with a fresh way of doing something on social media, there are hundreds of other brands, with equally photogenic products, who can copy the strategy and steal their thunder.
But whatever the benefits or challenges are of being a fashion brand, people are spending more and more time on social channels and less on print, so the social media show must go on.
Apparel on social media
In order to take a deeper look at what fashion brands are doing on social media, I thought it would be useful to look at one particular brand and pull some insights from that example.
I’ll start with one which is active on a number of channels and has had measurable success on a few of them: Australia’s Forever New.
Forever New is originally from Melbourne, but now has over 250 stores in 10 countries globally.
Now I’m not in its target market or an expert on apparel marketing, but I can see a few key things which are driving its social media strategy from which lessons can be learned.
Starting by just looking at the Forever New website, it’s quite clear that they have both a strong in-store and online brand. And because of this, it’s quite possible that many Forever New social media journeys start on the website.
But instead of putting social icons where they can be easily seen and clicked, Forever New unusually puts them at the bottom of its front page. This makes them even harder to find on the product pages when there is an infinite scroll feature. You simply can’t get to them.
If you click through the Blog or Lookbook page you see its social icons, but to encourage social media engagement it probably makes sense for social icons to be more universally accessible.
That aside, it does look like Forever New has a fairly well-thought out approach to social media in general.
Starting with the Forever New Facebook page, we can see regular, relevant posts all of which point back to what value the brand can bring to its customers. Product shots, how-to’s, short videos, and aspirational photos, all there, all tastefully done.
Another great thing is that the content is balanced between the official, corporate product shots and some behind-the-scenes ‘real’ photos of people wearing its clothes. There is also even occasional engagement in the comments.
So, although there’s very little to critique here, it is interesting to look at the ‘like’ counts. Some posts enjoy hundreds of likes, others just a few dozen.
What I think this means is that Forever New promotes certain posts to make sure they are seen by some of its 329,000 fans, and that’s a good idea and something I think we will see more of.
In the famous ‘Facebook Zero’ report by OgilvyOne, it showed that most brands’ organic reach on Facebook was approaching zero, and in order to be seen by fans they were going to have to pay for reach.
Facebook lesson: sure do great content, but pay so that someone sees it.
Photo and video-focused Instagram is a natural place for a clothing brand to strut its stuff and Forever New does not disappoint.
It’s managed to acieve 120,000 followers with less than 1,000 posts on the Forever New Official Instagram account and the content is a great mix of product shots and ‘real’ people associated with the brand.
Having a look at its post stats, I see on average its posts achieve 15 comments and 1,462 likes. Very impressive engagement.
As far as I’m aware, almost all Instagram traffic is still organic so I believe that Forever New is doing very well on the platform with its visuals alone.
And this is another aspect of social media brands should consider. Sure, Facebook has the reach, which you should always be concerned about, but also try other channels to see if one is a more natural fit for your brand and gives you more organic reach.
Not only is it free, but the feedback from an organic audience is more valuable than one which you have paid for.
Instagram lesson: notice organic traffic. It can help you find your best channel and your best audience.
Forever New also has a Twitter account and 8,600 followers. Content is regularly appearing on the channel, but there is very little engagement. Why does it bother?
Well the answer comes if you take a look at the links in each of the tweets.
The shortened links all start with ‘ift.tt’ which is the domain name owned by the ‘If This Then That’ (IFTTT) web service
What IFTTT does is provides ‘recipes’ which let you do all sorts of cool, unofficial link ups between your email, social networks, websites, etc. In Forever New’s case they have used this recipe to connect Instagram to Twitter.
Try it. It’s easy and will save you tons of time if you are manually reposting across social networks now.
Twitter lesson: try IFTTT recipes to help amplify messages across channels.
Forever New also has active Pinterest boards, but it only has 5,600 followers. Because of this, the engagement is low. Repins and likes are in the single digits for most posts.
Now, of course every brand can’t master every channel, but it seems quite clear that if you are going to be on a channel, then there is probably some reason to exploit its strengths.
My feeling is that repurposed content on Pinterest is just not very compelling.
I think the reason for this is that Pinterest is an aspirational social network, so brands need to publish something more than photos of their products.
It seems instructions or examples can help bring boards to life. Perhaps brands should include something about how to mix and match different styles or how to wear accessories in surprising ways.
Whichever the case, it’s clear that something needs to be done to find more followers and more engagement.
Pinterest lesson: don’t just amplify content to a new channel, make sure it works there too.
Although one might think that YouTube would be a good home for Forever New’s frequent fashion shows, the Forever New YouTube channel has been neglected for more than two years without an update. And the videos which are there have views in the low thousands.
It’s time to clean this up. The worst thing to be on social media is behind-the-times, and if YouTube isn’t working for you then shut it down.
YouTube lesson: use it or lose it. No one likes old, dusty, unloved social content.
And finally, the most unloved of the social networks: Google+.
Forever New’s Google+ page can only be reached by a link hidden at the bottom and I thought that I’d find another empty social channel.
But, to my surprise and delight the Google+ layout has lots of content and it looks really nice. The fonts and layout of the page support the elegant style of the brand to a great extent.
Unfortunately, Google+ seems to be in terminal decline, so engagement is almost non-existent.
L3’s Scott Galloway famously pointed out that engagement on Google+ has declined 98% year-on-year in April this year. The number is debatable, but most agree that there’s little point putting effort into the platform now.
Google+ lesson: looks nice, but it’s probably not worth it. (Unless you use IFTTT)
To sum up…
I agree that apparel brands have it somewhat easier than most. They have interesting, beautiful and aspirational products which can be shown on their own or on models and draw attention from just about anyone scrolling by.
But it still takes work to get an audience and keep them engaged, and Forever New is a great example of a clothing brand that has put some extra effort into its social media strategy to do so.
So, definitely try out a few of its tactics and do check out the Google+ page while it is still there!