Despite recent moves to promote ‘realness’ across the fashion industry – think designers opening their shows up to the public, and casting ‘regular’ people in their ad campaigns – many would argue that fashion is nothing without an air of magic, mystique and frankly, exclusivity. It can’t be avoided: fashion loves the ‘insider’ experience, often equating exclusivity to the ultimate form of style. Now, that intimate feel is trickling down to social media.
Instagram’s Head of Brand Development, EMEA, Amy Cole told us recently that “fashion brands are killing it on Instagram.” Indeed, the image sharing app is the industry’s go-to choice when it comes to social networking, with just about every brand, model, stylist and editor boasting an artfully curated Insta-feed. However, the pressurised blink-and-you’ll-miss-it pace of social media runs the risk of decreasing the value of brands’ general output. It’s little surprise that fashion brands – many of which thrive on being clandestine – are looking to the likes of Snapchat for a new, entirely different kind of social media.
It seems that as each day passes, another big fashion name jumps on the Snapchat bandwagon, and it’s easy to see why, as Snapchat is slightly more mouldable than other social networks. Brands can post photos, videos, craft Snapchat Stories, invite celebrities to ‘take over’ their Snapchat accounts for a day, or even follow in the footsteps of Vice, Cosmopolitan and Refinery29 by launching their own channels on Snapchat Discover.
The possibilities are seemingly endless. Young brand Everlane uses Snapchat to promote its transparent approach to business, answering fans’ questions about the inner-workings of the brand and even inviting followers inside its factories so they can see how the production line works. Legendary high-end brands also seem to be having fun with Snapchat, most notably Valentino, which uses the platform to shun any associations with stuffiness and instead frequently uploads humorously captioned images and fun, quirky video content. Digital strategist Rachel Arthur told Fashionista that she finds Valentino’s Snapchat “quite personable,” adding that, “because [it’s reaching a] younger customer, brands can be a bit more playful on Snapchat.”
It’s not just that Snapchat’s interface looks and feels entirely different from that of Facebook, Twitter et al, but its values are different as well. Snapchat is part of the “dark social” web – a term coined by The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal to describe social media sharing that happens privately, be it links sent via private messaging services or Snapchats sent between close friends. Dark social activity is, as Madrigal states, “essentially invisible” to the analytics programs that so many brands rely on to track the successes and shortcomings of their websites, e-shops and social media accounts.
As irritating as dark social’s elusiveness may be for brands, it does have a growing appeal in the fashion world. WhatsApp, for example, is now being adopted by companies who are keen to tap into the intimacy that goes hand-in-hand with an encrypted messaging service that’s normally used to keep in touch with family and friends. British Vogue was the first major fashion publication to join WhatsApp – in February 2016, it urged its readers to add its WhatsApp number to receive breaking fashion news alerts. Whether this was a smart move remains to be seen though, as Vogue’s last WhatsApp blast was sent in April, and its contact number has now been removed from its website.
So, what’s the future for fashion’s relationship with social media? An increased interest in the possibilities of the ‘dark web’ is likely. Adidas is one brand banking on it, having chosen to use WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to bring together local communities of its fans. During sports events this summer, Adidas will be assigning dedicated ‘squads’ to cities worldwide, with the intention to break brand-related news and invite WhatsApp users to nearby ‘insider-only’ events. “WhatsApp was specifically chosen as our research shows that consumers already use the app to create their own micro-communities,” Adidas’ Florian Alt told The Drum. “Adidas wants to be the most personal brand, so we need to know and understand our consumer in order to have a meaningful relationship. There is huge potential in dark social.”
Or perhaps the future is just more social media. Publishing company Clique Media Group – owner of Who What Wear, Byrdie and more – launched its latest brand, Obsessee, this March. Obsessee could have been seen as yet another online-only lifestyle venture, except it came with one major component missing: a website. Instead of publishing content through a dedicated URL and then sharing it across social channels, Obsessee simply runs on social channels. While Obsessee has a dedicated team behind the scenes, it regularly passes the reins to digital influencers to bring their own voices to the brand. Kristie Dash, Allure’s Digital Beauty Editor, is one of the names on Obsessee’s roster, and she takes over the brand’s Snapchat account every Sunday to give viewers access to her life, loves and beauty routines – all delivered with a hefty sense of humour, naturally. “Gen Z are not [visiting] dot coms,” Katherine Power, Co-Founder of Clique Media Group, told the Business of Fashion. But could a social media-only approach really be the future of branding? Will websites ever become obsolete for media companies? Only time will tell.
Reported by Grace Howard
Image Source: Footwear News