“A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is.” – Scott Cook
Last year, Forbes magazine published an article that stated that more Americans got their news from social media than any other media outlet. 55% to be exact which is an 8% increase from 2018 and it is almost a surety that that number has gone up in 2020. It isn’t just Americans who are gleaning information from social media, an increasing number of consumers around the world are disregarding third-party motivated news channels and newspapers only to focus instead on real-time information from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. What better way to authenticate news than to have a hundred pictures and videos from the actual site, taken by people who were actually there? This means that social media has a huge amount of power in controlling who sees what kinds of news and therefore a huge amount of power in influencing the minds of their active users.
So, it is little surprise that fashion and lifestyle brands have jumped on the social media bandwagon. With an increasing number of users on each of these platforms, brands have the ability to reach more consumers than ever before. More importantly, they now have the ability to communicate directly with their consumers and ascertain their tastes, opinions, and choices. Over the past two decades, with the advent of the internet, brands moved from television advertisements to setting up their own websites. Having their own websites gave these brands a chance to provide information about the brand, product, and legacy on their own terms. While television ads were entirely dependent on-air time, and on chance viewership, websites retained this information for any interested party in perpetuity. Products could be viewed at any angle; price information was readily available and brands themselves could collect client data. It seemed like brands had the perfect platform to communicate with their customers.
Then came social media, and it revealed a gaping hole in this strategy. While radio, television, and websites were all great platforms to communicate with clients, they did not offer any easy opportunity for clients to communicate back. Social media on the other hand offered any customer or potential customer to express their reactions to brands in a variety of ways. If you like a brand, you would follow its profile, if you appreciated a campaign, you could like the photograph and if you wanted a product, you could ask for its availability in the comments. Brands could respond as well. They could refute accusations, thank clients, and most importantly, they could communicate information in real-time.
When Snapchat surged in popularity, much of the older generation could not fathom why. So you could send a picture, but then it would disappear? What was the point? The point was, in fact, the immediacy of it. A picture sent from a fashion show meant that the sender was actually at the fashion show at exactly that point in time. The excitement that comes from knowing what another person or brand is doing at the exact moment that you are making a cup of coffee makes you feel included in the activity, as if you’re a part of it in a way that you couldn’t be, had you watched a rerun or late broadcast. When Instagram introduced stories, almost every fashion brand started showcasing their shows on their stories or on Instagram live. No longer was a fashion show a private, exclusive event opened up only to the elite few but an event broadcasted live to every interested person who cared to tune it, much like a world cup final or a royal wedding.
A larger viewership for shows isn’t the only reason fashion brands have jumped on the social media bandwagon. Instagram’s user demographic is also significantly younger than the age group a brand may usually have access to. This increased visibility means the possibility of cultivating a new generation of clients who will soon make up a large percentage of those with spending potential. These potential new clients respect brands that are open to change. They themselves have an active social presence and look for brands that are like-minded. Self-disclosure, self-presentation, and media richness are all qualities that the new age consumer wants from the brand they patronize. Brands that offer clients the ability to interact with them are not only more approachable but also more reliable. Interaction not only with the brand but also with fellow customers can result in more authentic reviews and discourse.
Ivar by Ritika Ravi has always had a clear-cut social media strategy. Having launched at a time when having a social media presence was almost a prerequisite of a brand, Ivar’s entire launch was teased first on social media before it made it to newspapers and magazines. The website launch was advertised on social media, as was the store opening. Over the course of two years, Ivar has aimed at completely organic growth with mini-campaigns posted every month. New products have been showcased as they’ve been released and behind the scenes footage is put on stories while the shoots are going on. Trunk shows and new pop-ups have been marketed and client stories have been recorded for posterity. The strategy is simple and effective- showcase content for entertainment, instruction, and for aesthetics. Information provided about the craftsmanship of the pieces, the sustainability practices of the brand, and the store activities have encouraged engagement and knowledge sharing with clients.
Knowledge is power, and now consumers have access to both explicit and tacit knowledge when it comes to their favorite brands. What the brand’s current product looks like, what its next move is, what experience a customer has had at a store are all recorded on social media by either brands or customers in various implicit and explicit ways. If a client wears a product, they can tag the brand in their post which can then be shared by the brand itself. This cyclical sharing and re-sharing of content results in even more visibility both for the brand and the individual. If it happens often enough, the individual then becomes what we now call-an influencer. Where would be we be without them?