Luxury Fashion Brands Embrace Social Media
The latest round of global catwalk shows has illustrated how fast things are changing in the world of fashion marketing.At the Dolce & Gabbana show, fashion bloggers Scott Schuman, Bryan Yambao, Tommy Ton and Garance Doré were seen tapping away at their laptops from seats usually only reserved for the likes of Anna Wintour, whilst the show was streamed lived on the Dolce & Gabbana website. With 16m hits in just a few days, D&G's YouTube channel became the most watched in the world for a 24 hour period.Louis Vuitton also broadcast a recent catwalk show live, through Facebook from Paris, attracting 50,000 guests from its 750,000 fans on the social media site. And the celebrity-inspired power of twitter was demonstrated when a Lady Gaga tweet led to so much traffic to the live stream of Alexander McQueen’s show that his site crashed.Since the shows, we've seen the launch of Burberry's www.artofthetrench.com, a site which combines the appeal and talent of Sartorialist blogger Scott Schuman with the power of social media to deepen relationships with existing customers and forge relationsips with new ones.And Gucci has launched its latest eyewear range with a viral campaign rather than using traditional media channels. Its site, www.guccieyeweb.com, lets visitors upload their own photographs and then displays their picture as if were a reflection in the various eyewear styles. Users can share their 'eyewear reflections' on facebook, twitter and on the social bookmarking sites.So should all luxury brands rush headlong into social media? No - as with all marketing, the starting place should be an understanding of your target market, followed by a clear strategy. For luxury fashion brands, 'mass' social media is a more obvious move as their lower entry price points makes them accessible to a wider audience. For brands with a narrower appeal, the strategy might be very different - more personal relationships built via closed or invitation only networks rather than openly accessible ones.The problem is that many brands aren't engaging with social media for the wrong reasons - either because they don't understand how their customers are using it or a fear of losing control of their brands.Recent research shows that the affluent are just as likely to use social media channels as the mass market, albeit for more rational and less frivolous reasons. And those that comfort themselves with the thought that their older profile of customer has so far shunned social media should understand that the continuing growth of sites such as Facebook is being fuelled by the over 55s.As for the fear of losing control, conversations have always taken place about luxury brands that were beyond the control of the brand owners. Social media helps to facilitate more of these conversation and spread them faster and wider. But it also makes those conversations more visible and gives the brand a chance to both get involved with and facilitate them - to deepen relationships with existing customers and create relationships with potential new ones.Social media is just one of the channels available to the marketer and the right social media strategy starts with an understanding of who your customers are and how they're engaging online. As a starting point, Forrester's Social Technology Profile Tool should give you some clues. Then start to monitor what's been said about your brand and where. Once you start to understand where and how your customers are interacting online, you've taken the first step to building a considered social networking strategy.One thing is for certain, with developments such as real-time social search and Google SideWiki on the horizon, luxury brands ignoring social media aren't going to be able to ignore it for much longer.