Apr 12, 2023
Is fashion falling out of love with social media?
Apr 12, 2023
The fashion industry has never been so present on social networks, but recent controversies and the younger generation's lack of interest in some of these platforms could change the game. Now, fashion companies are working on finding other channels through which to communicate with their communities, and build loyalty. From podcasts to digital magazines, TV series and the metaverse, there are now numerous ways to avoid relying solely on social media.
With millions, if not tens of millions, of followers on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, ready-to-wear brands enjoy a level of visibility they never had before. An advertising campaign, a new collection, a collaboration, and even a fashion show, can now get millions of views in no time, and that's without counting on the (usually famous) 'friends' of these brands who, in one click, have the power to increase views just as quickly. This was seen at the end of 2022 with a Louis Vuitton campaign featuring Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, whose shoot broke records for likes on Instagram -- scoring some 70 million -- and becoming one of the most liked posts in the history of the platform, now owned by the American tech giant, Meta.
A lucrative union
If the fashion industry succumbed to the call of social networks long before Covid-19, there's no denying that the pandemic considerably boosted this budding love affair. Forced to close their stores, but also to give up their fashion shows and advertising campaigns, players in the sector turned to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and even TikTok as a way to maintain contact with their communities, and even to find ways of expanding them. From Zara (57 million followers on Instagram) to Gucci (51 million followers) to Nike (280 million followers), all segments of the fashion industry are now benefiting from an extraordinary level of visibility.
The strategy proved to be a winning one for the entire industry, which quickly transformed its communication strategy to double down on this success. Just look at the front rows of the latest fashion shows, and you'll see that, with a few exceptions, influencers have replaced fashion journalists from women's magazines and newspapers, and that these same influencers have replaced models and muses in promoting the new products of fashion's giants. As a result, a historic fashion house like Lanvin has managed to gain no less than 900,000 followers on Instagram to reach six million followers, scoring the largest increase last year, according to data published by the performance marketing agency, Landing Partners.
Riding the social media storm
But is the love affair between fashion and social media really made to last? Much suggests so, but certain factors could spoil the party, starting with users' lack of interest in some platforms. For the first time in its history, Facebook lost users in the last quarter of 2021, to the tune of some four million daily users between September and December 2021. A drop in the ocean compared to the approximately three billion users that remain active today, but it speaks volumes about the public's waning interest in some of these applications. And that's without taking into account the turmoil that has shaken Twitter since the arrival of Elon Musk at the head of the American firm. This has led to the departure of Balenciaga, and even the star model Gigi Hadid, from the social network.
But that's not all. Some fashion brands have faced controversies that have tainted their image. One of the most recent cases involves Balenciaga, which faced monumental backlash after sharing a campaign featuring children with sexually suggestive accessories. In just a few hours, the videos -- and the criticism -- came from all over the world, TikTok leading the way, to call out the pictures posted by the luxury house, so much so that Kim Kardashian even questioned her partnership with the label. And Balenciaga isn't alone, since the Swedish giant H&M incurred the wrath of Justin Bieber after marketing a collection featuring his image. The singer, who said that the products in question did not have his approval, dismissed them as "trash" in an Instagram Story. Comments seen by his 280 million followers -- and then some -- and which were undoubtedly not beneficial to the brand.
Today, controlling their image in the age of social networks can be a minefield for brands. What's more, leaving these platforms would probably not solve the problem: the Balenciaga campaign would no doubt have led to an outcry, regardless of the luxury brand's presence -- or lack of -- on social networks. On the contrary, the idea now seems to be to reach out to a wide audience by taking control of communication on all the available channels and, if possible, those popular with fashion brands' prime target, the highly coveted Gen Z. This can be seen with the arrival of most of these brands on TikTok, although some don't seem to be very active there, and the emergence of shorter formats targeting younger audiences. But even that doesn't seem to be enough, prompting the fashion industry to continue looking for other means of communication.
An omnichannel presence
Some brands saw the way things were heading well before the first controversies hit. The Lush beauty brand left social networks due to their detrimental effect on mental health, it said, and the luxury fashion house Bottega Veneta also quit social media. However, that doesn't mean it has broken the link established with its community. Not content with having returned to more traditional communications, based on its products as well as its commitments, the brand has innovated by creating its own digital journal called Issue, allowing it full control over its communications. And it's not the only one looking for new solutions, since the French ready-to-wear brand Don't Call Me Jennyfer launched its own immersive application at the beginning of the year, based on the concept of a social network, and offering content, promotions, cashback, and of course the possibility to buy products in just a few clicks. This kind of custom and tailored media is a concept that could inspire more than one brand at a time when consumers are increasingly looking for a personalized shopping experience.
Rather than shunning social networks, it's an omnichannel presence that seems to be of keen interest to fashion brands today. This could be an effective way to reach out to all generations, but also all social strata. The return of traditional advertising campaigns, with muses from all walks of life, reflects this, as does the advent of podcasts based on the history or commitments of major luxury labels, as well as the growing number of product placements in television shows and video games. New technologies, notably Web3 and artificial intelligence, are another boon for brands in search of visibility among younger generations. As such, it's perhaps not surprising that fashion seems to be one of the industries that has made the most progress in the metaverse, with virtual fashion collections, collaborations with industry giants such as South Korea's Zepeto, and even a Metaverse Fashion Week.
And if artificial intelligence is still in its infancy, this technology is already attracting a lot of interest through the ChatGPT conversational AI. This is a new and important field for an industry that seems to want to establish its presence in the media, whatever form that might take. Provided, however, that no one loses control...
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