‘A drawing shows me at a glance what would be spread over ten pages in a book’. Ivan Turgenev’s line from Father and Sons, written in 1862, could well be describing Instagram, the photo-sharing social network that is taking the fashion world by storm. Over 90% of luxury brands use it, each sharing an estimated 5.5 photos per week, proving that a picture is indeed worth at least a thousand words.
Instagram, born in 2010 out of the desperately unsuccessful check-in app Burbn, pivoted into a squarish photo-sharing tool and quickly overtook other social networks with its sheer visual exuberance.
Instagram’s user base grew by 23% in 2013, faster than Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest combined, and all signs indicate that this year’s growth will be just as strong. It is much more accessible, requires no witty comments, and a simple copy and paste of the hashtag prevents embarrassing typos. Much more inclusive than Twitter, Instagram welcomes visual souls, as well as those who just don’t enjoy trying to squeeze daily witticisms into 140 characters.
Instagram has no limits on hashtags, and as long as your shared photo looks amazing, you can use as many as you want – specific ones work better than generic words.
Burberry leads the Instagram fash pack
A leader of the Instagram fashion superstars is Burberry, with their 2 million (and rising) Instagram followers. The brand is focusing their creative endeavours on Kate Moss and Cara Delevingne, whose warm, semi-nude embrace under a classic Burberry trench got a stonking 57,000 likes on Instagram. A cheeky selfie of the duo (this time fully clothed) with Mario Testino still got over 30,000 likes.
TOPSHOP SNUBS JOURNALISTS IN FAVOUR OF INSTAGRAMMERS
Lower down the price point (although not necessarily lower down the ’cool’ ranking), Topshop put a few fashion press noses out of joint by giving their favourite Instagrammers priority to take photos of a few new collection pieces and share them on Facebook before the press got to see the catwalk.
The move proved to be a sensation, as Topshop fans not only loved the surprise preview, but were able to shop for the new lines straight after the show.
Instagram does not yet allow you to link to a product page, so brands are getting around this by inserting their Twitter handle in the comments and then posting the links to the shop pages on Twitter. If it sounds convoluted, it is, and we are expecting a less opaque integration of e-commerce in Instagram fairly soon (e-gram?).
COMMERCIALISATION COMING SOON
Kevin Systrom, Instagram’s CEO, is in charge of persuading leading fashion advertisers to start using Instagram. In fact, he is so keen on brands like Burberry that he still personally reviews the creative for the ads that the brand presents. However, despite this slightly obsessive micro-management, he has still found time to join the Walmart board – a strong indication that we will be seeing the commercialisation of Instagram sooner rather than later.
KEEPING IT REAL
All those impossibly beautiful women (and men) modelling impossibly beautiful clothes has created an unattainable aspiration for us mere mortals who, try as we might, can’t get as many Likes as Kate or Cara on Instagram, however many filters we use.
On Instagram the Kate Mosses of this world are shown in the stream next to the average girl, which can create tension and frustration. This disconnect was noted by some street-wise brands, who have started to offer their fans the space to post more authentic and less stylised images.
One to note is the Instagram campaign #Realsies – run by the street-savvy Benefit Cosmetics. The brand asked their fans to post selfies without mascara (‘realsies’). Images poured in, and Benefit translated that newly discovered love for non-enhanced beauty into a cult webpage, gaining tons of street cred on the way.
Inspired by that, the fast-growing Shoreditch designer shoe brand Miista.com has invited fans to take photos of themselves wearing Miista shoes. The opportunity to post a selfie wearing gorgeous shoes proved too much to resist, and the tribe was born, turning the little known young London brand into an overnight sensation.
Instagram is proving to be a great platform for a creative dialogue with fans, as well as for new brands being born and spreading their love globally.
GET SOME INSTA INSPIRATION
Our @RetailPractice Instagram highlights new voices amongst the brands in the fashing Instagram universe. One of our current favourites is @solestruck – a cheeky, contrarian and up-for-anything brand that creates strong images and copy. The shoes are great but the cheeky copy is even better, which goes to show that the brands of tomorrow will need to be comedians, poets and artists as well as amazing designers.
LET YOUR FANS DO THE TALKING
If you’re brave, just leave the creativity to your fans. The hashtag #HelpForHeroes was created by supporters of the charity, and it is their ideas, creative photography and desire to connect with each other that gives the hashtag such strong emotional currency.
One #HelpForHeroes fan creates custom-made motorcycles, and posted a picture with the hashtag, only to discover that many other supporters wanted to buy it from him. Connecting fans, providing a platform for followers and simply getting out of the way may be the best way of engaging with the community, not just for charities, but for many brands.
COMBATTING THE INSTAGRAM SPAMBOTS
Alas, underneath the shiny Instagram glam, there lurks a murkier world of shady behaviour. As the black market for Instagram followers is emerging, some impatient brands don’t want to be seen with low numbers of followers, so they ‘buy’ them. This is done with a hijacked account, which is turned into a bot that follows celebrities, brands and basically provides the cannon fodder for online vanities.
How to combat spambots? Recognition is the key, and luckily it is fairly simple. An Instagram spam-bot will typically have about 1 post, 0 followers, a human name and will be following many, so it’s easily identifiable as a fake.
RULES OF INSTAGRAM
Finally, just to make sure we leave you with enough ammunition to kick off your next Instagram campaign, don’t miss the Rules of Instagram that everyone should follow.
And don’t forget to check our Retail Practice Instagram account for the top brand campaigns that get it right.