How Should Luxury Brands Use Social Media?

Burberry Leads the Way for Luxury Brands on Social MediaA recent study from Unity Marketing in the US provides further compelling evidence that luxury brands should be engaging in social media, but also gives some strong pointers as to how they should be using the channel. And although the findings are from a US based affluent sample, we think its findings can be interpreted for a similar audience across ‘The Pond’.The study, a survey of over 1,600 US ‘affluents’ (those with an income of over $100,000) in the US found that over 80% of them were social media users. Even amongst older age ranges, in this case 40 plus, 70% of those surveyed had at least one social networking profile. These figures are largely in line with an Affluence Collaborative survey at the end of last year that found that 60% of US affluents were engaged in social media online.And despite the existence of affluent niche social networking sites such as ASmallWorld, this audience is most likely to be on Facebook.So how are luxury consumer’s using the social web and how does that inform social media strategies for luxury brands?The main finding from Unity Marketing's study is that although affluent consumers will view brand site pages for research purposes, and even engage with the brand via leaving comments, they’re much less likely to ‘friend’ a luxury brand, with only 1 in 4 of those surveyed having done so.Combine this with research from the Affluence Collaborative that found that luxury consumers were more functional and less frivolous in how they engaged with brands online and findings from both the Affluence Collaborative and the Edelman Report that luxury consumers are more likely to trust their own judgement than that of their peers and some clear pointers start to emerge about relevant social media strategies for luxury brands.When visiting a brand's fan page luxury social media users aren’t looking to be entertained, they’re looking for practical information to help them make an informed purchase decision – be it engaging information that tells the brand's story or detailed information on a specific product.But luxury marketers should also leverage the interactive nature of the media to engage with this audience and learn from them - be it to undertake research, gather feedback and/or deal with customer service issues. The research demonstrates that these consumers will engage, even if they won’t go the full ‘9 yards’ and friend their brand.As for measurement, luxury brand’s shouldn’t judge themselves purely on their numbers of fans, or expect the viral nature of the medium to work too strongly for them.  What they should do is use the quality of insight they're achieving and the volume and behaviour of referrals to their site from their social brand presences to judge the effectiveness of their strategy.