5 INSTAGRAM LESSONS FROM THE FASHION INDUSTRY

It’s no secret that Instagram is king in the visual social media marketing world. It is a platform with one focus- visuals. Everything else, like links, calls to action and other classic forms of content marketing are hidden within Instagram.  With such a strong emphasis on visuals, some industries especially in the fashion, design and creative spaces can leverage Instagram to tell a unique story.

With Instagram, the fashion industry has found its social media soulmate.  Through the visual-only platform, promoting an iconic look or evoking unique forms of expression is a cinch.

So the fashion industry has found its perfect match on Instagram.

What about the less sexy industries? Can the less product focused industries use the visual-based social media platform? Are there any lessons to learn from the way in which the fashion industry uses Instagram?

The answer to all of these questions, yes! There’s room for all brands on Instagram.  I’ve even seen carpet cleaning services use the platform.

While many fashion brands are focusing on Instagram for its strong visual storytelling value, they are not selling directly through the platform. Well, sort of. Why are they not pushing their product? Because the platform isn’t built for that direct form of transaction. It’s a place for visuals, for value, and for expression. Like all social media platforms, Instagram isn’t meant to sell. It’s meant to inspire, to engage, to create interest. Selling on social media doesn’t work.

Fashion is, and has always been, defined by its ability to allow the designer to creatively design products. It’s an industry that is constantly changing and dynamic. Social media is also. Yesterday’s Facebook is today’s Snapchat. Does that mean there isn’t room for both? No. Just means that there are trends in how companies market and engage with their community.

Regardless of the size of the fashion company, Instagram can be an ideal way to tell a unique visual story. From bespoke men’s clothing designer to global jeans. Instagram offers something for every designer and for every company.

Many companies are still treading in the deep waters of social media. They remain unsure of its value and question its overall potential, the fashion industry is strutting its Instagram success down the proverbial runway of marketing.

BUT FIRST, WHY INSTAGRAM?

Instagram is everywhere.  To date, over 500 million users are on Instagram globally, 75% of them logging in at least once per day. Clearly, the fact that Instagram is part of the Facebook family can’t hurt. It also enables the visual platform to leverage a robust media and advertising platform.

 

All in all that’s impressive exposure.

In fact, a recent study has discovered that Instagram is among the the most rapidly growing social network in the world. That makes a strong case for why Instagram should be integrated into a holistic digital marketing strategy.

With all the good about Instagram, over the past few weeks studies have shown that Instagram engagement rates have declined significantly over the past few months. Most of the articles attribute the decline to the rate that brands are choosing to post, more posts per brand means a clogged feed. In addition to the growth of content being produced by brands, Instagram is also pushing its ad platform more which means that sponsored posts are favored over native, organic content.

While the recent decline is important to note, Instagram’s visual platform is still favored by many companies, especially those that rely on pictures to inspire and to engage, like the fashion industry. Think that Instagram is only for B2C companies? Here are some b2bcompanies crushing Instagram and maximizing the visual platform to highlight their industry’s strengths.

What can the fashion industry teach other companies about Instagram and visual storytelling?

1 PERSONALIZE YOUR BRAND

Rule number 1 of successful social media marketing- be true to your brand.  All images  shared on Instagram should be consistent with the brand voice. A holistic digital strategy does exactly this. It enables users to engage with a brand across all digital touchpoints with a consistent messaging that is woven together. The message is also respectful of the platform’s strength. (putting links in Instagram posts, not in the bio, don’t do much since there is no hyperlinking option).

Pro tip: Consistency of brand voice across all digital and traditional media is critical. If it’s not, then there are bigger issues that need to be discussed.

The most successful brands are conscious of consistency at all time.

Size of brand isn’t the issue. The main focus should be a strong voice with quality images.  Even the smallest of brands can use visuals to tell a great story or highlight their brand position.  I’ve had the unique opportunity to meet the person behind a custom clothing company, who is slowly understanding that visual marketing can only enhance the company’s growth.

The company knows their persona and understands their value proposition in full detail. Now they are integrating that into an Instagram strategy to enable the pictures to sell. Quality without cutting any corners. It speaks to their legacy with a tip of the hat to the startup and entrepreneurial mindset.

2 TELL A STORY

Every business is unique. Each brand has great story of how it was founded. The narrative of every company, brand, organization, or startup is unique. Something that distinguishes them from their competition. Instagram is a great platform to share that creativity. It’s a creative expression for brands to encourage user generated content. Let the audience show off how their using the product. Let the consumers share some of their passion.

3 GO BACKSTAGE

Every brand has some behind the scenes work. The fashion industry literally invented the backstage access. Going backstage gives customers and fans a sneak peak of what to expect. It’s a build up to the main stage.

4 BUILD A COMMUNITY

Despite the recent decrease, I still believe that Instagram engagement rates are impressive.  Why? Partially because it’s so visual which makes users interested quickly.  Partially because of the simple user interface. On Instagram, like every other digital marketing platform, building community starts,  with knowing your customers.  That should be the easy part. Like Twitter, hashtags make the platform searchable to other  users.

5 HASHTAG FRIENDLY

Hashtags let other users search content from other accounts on Instagram. Relevant hashtags, like keywords, yield more impressions since searching hashtags bring more brand attention. While hashtags may be confusing, the reach potential and relevance makes it a very important component to growing an online community.  With hashtags the key is relevance.

Please don’t overdo it.  Hashtagging can easily lead to spamming. That’s a brand killer. See what others are doing and what key # they are using. To learn more about the skill behind creating great hashtags, here’s a post from Buffer on Instagram.

A few tips on quality hashtags:

Branded hashtags – A brands can leverage a unique hashtag for promotion.  It’s like a stamp. Branded hashtags should be used consistently across online and offline platforms to ensure that consumers are seeing it.

Idea hashtags – Here, the hashtags add meaning behind a certain campaign or contest. Specific hashtags – These are the keywords that describe the space or industry. Generic terms like #fashion #mensfashion would fall under this category.

Build the community around the keywords. The investment will pay off.

USERS, UGC and INPUT

Why spend all the time trying to generate content? If a product is so good, the user should be sharing and telling the story. User Generated Content (UGC) really can serve two different purposes. Not only does UGC bridge the divide between customers and brands. With strong visuals, the UGC makes the product relatable and consumable. Inspiration is the other side of UGC. We’ve all had that moment where we see something and want it. FOMO?  UGC taps into that psychology.

ROI…ON SOCIAL?

The most famous question of all digital marketing. The consumer is eager, they want to buy. But on Instagram? Where is the ROI of all the tweeting, posting, and engaging? Some social media marketers have figured it out, despite the limited nature of call to action on Instagram.

Once again, the fashion industry has figured it out.

A few companies are leading the social to sales space including Michael Kors with Like2Buy, allowing users to like products and order directly from Instagram. With a tap of the heart button on Instagram, the product is in your shopping cart.  Finally, an e-commerce solution that makes sense! Another solution is Matches Fashion, which is able to create sales codes based on a users geolocation. Looking to handle revenue on Instagram? Go with Soldsie. The payment processor responds when a customer comments on a picture. With the word Sold, the user can complete a purchase via Instagram.

So there, Instagram is now a sales funnel.

Above all, Instagram is a very powerful tool for brands to deliver a compelling visual story. Like all digital platforms, success depends not only on creativity but consistency. No brand, can see instant success. Invest the time to do Instagram right.

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