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business Editor's pick social media

#Longread: Is Twitter still relevant for fashion brands?

The Burberry Tweetcam campaign on Twitter in 2015
The Burberry Tweetcam campaign on Twitter in 2015

As far as social media platforms go, Twitter is fairly down the list for fashion brands these days. Where once it led the pack with such initiatives as the Burberry Tweetwalk in 2011, even its Tweetcam in 2015, its coverage of late surrounds more in the way of axed products (video app Vine for instance), an acquisition fall out (no one wants to buy it) and increased job losses and exits (including many senior execs) – all of which led to record lows in its share price during 2016.

Couple that with persistently stagnant user growth, and it raises a real question mark over Twitter’s future. So what do fashion brands need to know in terms of whether they should or shouldn’t invest time and money in the platform in 2017?


The numbers

Although phenomenally successful over the past decade, in recent years Twitter has fallen behind its peers. The main issue is flat user growth, which impacts negatively on revenue.

On average, Twitter had 317 million monthly active users in Q3 2016, up 3% year-on-year. This compares to Facebook’s 1.79 billion, up 16% yoy and Instagram’s 600 million, which is double that of 2014. Snapchat doesn’t disclose monthly figures, suggesting that its engagement is so high it prefers to talk about dailies. It has a reported 150 million daily active users, compared to Twitter’s estimated 136 million.

In terms of revenue, Twitter is therefore finding it particularly difficult to attract brand marketers to advertise on a platform with restricted growth (albeit its advertising revenue was up 6% year-on-year in Q3 2016). What’s perhaps more troubling for the long run in that vein, however, is a potential shift in the way the platform is used.


First for news?

Twitter has long been considered the go-to platform for breaking news – often reporting on stories ahead of mainstream media channels. One in five PR disasters even break on Twitter, according to marketing tool, Year Ahead. And Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey’s focus is indeed reportedly on the social media app as a global information news network.

As social media expert, Karinna Nobbs, explains: “Many customers use Twitter as a news platform, so with the right analytics, if it is right for your target, you should be on it.” She also suggests that fashion brands use Twitter for building relationships with journalists and publishers.

Is Twitter still relevant for the fashion industry?
Is Twitter still relevant for the fashion industry?

Yet, according to Paul Berry, founder and CEO of RebelMouse, even publishers are moving slowly away from the platform. He told Digiday: “Five, 10 years ago, there was a lot of emphasis on building Twitter followings, traffic. For new media companies, Twitter is the afterthought and the side job. It used to be one person on Facebook, one person on Twitter, and now it’s three people on Facebook and half a person on Twitter.”

Further stats from the same Digiday piece show that 59% of Twitter users do indeed get news on the service, third after Reddit and Facebook. But only 16% of adults in the US use Twitter in the first place, and only 9% of adults get news there. That compares to Facebook being used by 67% of U.S. adults, with 44% of US adults getting news there, according to Pew Research Center.

Twitter has been introducing new features in a bid to combat this, and both grow and retain engaged users. Included is its livestreaming service Periscope, and “Twitter Moments”, its storytelling feature enabling users to gather (and consume) tweets under themes, or indeed news stories. In truth, however, they still haven’t made much of an impact, while Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat continue to storm ahead – especially with live video.


Fashion application

Within the fashion industry specifically, there is reasonable usage of the platform nonetheless, especially during fashion weeks – arguably the industry’s most newsworthy occasions. 503,404 Tweets were tagged #LFW for spring/summer 2016, according to the British Fashion Council. But engagement is significantly higher on Instagram. For spring/summer 2017, Burberry for instance received 415,300 likes on Instagram compared to 28,750 likes and retweets on Twitter, according to Stylight. That trend continues for most other designers.

Speaking anonymously, one industry insider said: “Twitter has become the last, and at best the fourth social media channel I think about when thinking about our communications strategy [behind Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat]. I would argue Pinterest… and possibly even LinkedIn are more relevant to fashion and e-commerce today.”

Of course some fashion brands haven’t ever used Twitter at all. Christopher Kane for instance hasn’t posted a single tweet (though its reserved account has approximately 4,500 organic followers). By comparison the brand’s Instagram account has 226k followers with over 1,350 posts.

The fact is, the internet has shifted from being a text-based entity, to a visual and video one. While Twitter has attempted to keep up with this movement, for fashion brands particularly, other platforms have become more appealing and perceivably more suitable.

Another anonymous source explains: “Fashion brands have always thought visual-first, they were just previously restricted by what the social media channels enabled. When Instagram took off, they suddenly got their version of digital beauty – something that was in keeping with the aesthetic they were trying to portray and at huge scale. They’ve grown fast on that platform and engagement remains high, albeit with its own algorithmic challenges. The new flurry of live video options – on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat – all give them new means to provide insights, news and updates from the brand too, and importantly in quite a ‘cool’ way. It’s entirely possible they just don’t need Twitter anymore.”

Belstaff on Twitter
Belstaff on Twitter

That’s not to say everyone feels that way of course. One example of a brand that makes the best of what Twitter has to offer is Belstaff. Its global marketing manager, Melina Fenby, explains the brand’s current strategy includes using Twitter as “our news, events and information hub to grow brand loyalty”. She says the team uses Twitter for influencer engagement (motorsport and adventure figures resonate well with the Belstaff community) and event/PR activity (the Goodwood Festival of Speed content was particularly popular).

Outlining Belstaff’s Twitter strategy going forward, Fenby added: “The real focus for us is to generate meaningful engagement with our existing fans and relevant micro-communities.”


Championing customer service

Unsurprisingly where Twitter does otherwise resonate for retail fashion brands particularly is in the realm of customer service.

ASOS for instance has a dedicated Twitter account specifically for queries. @ASOS_Heretohelp is among the top 10% of help handles with an average response time of five minutes. It has over 180,000 followers of its own, against the main @ASOS account’s 1.01 million.

Others including Nike, Jack Threads and Lululemon are incredibly strong from a customer service perspective on the channel too. Overall, two-thirds of brands tracked by L2 use their Twitter accounts for customer service.

While the average fashion brand communicates with just 64 customers per month via Twitter posts, according to L2, Lululemon addresses the concerns of more than 900 customers each month and even provides personalised product recommendations. Other stand out accounts include Macy’s and Marks & Spencer, which both receive more than 10,000 Twitter mentions and communicate with more than 800 customers each month.

When customers are taking this route, they expect brands to respond quickly to mentions and queries, more so than anywhere else. This fits with the fact cloud-based social customer service provider, Conversocial, found over half of consumers (54.4%) prefer new messaging channels such as SMS, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, and WhatsApp as their primary form of communication with brands compared to legacy channels such as email, phone, and web chat.

ASOS_Heretohelp on Twitter
ASOS Here to Help on Twitter

That’s not overly a surprise. But the truth is, much like storytelling and live news, nailing customer service is also becoming increasingly competitive from a platform side. Facebook Messenger has gained an enormous amount of ground throughout 2016 as one of the early leaders in the chatbot space for instance (behind Wechat in China). This is the introduction of artificial intelligence-enabled automated conversations through a chat interface, which for retailers is especially useful when applied to scalable customer service. Though still nascent, they’re expected to increasingly resonate with consumers.

Twitter therefore, has had to up its game in this space too. In November 2016, it launched bot-like features within direct messages for brands. Included are automated “welcome” responses, as well as “quick replies”, which let users choose from a series of pre-written sentences or prompts (like “what’s the status of my order”) to facilitate faster resolutions.

Cleverly, that also takes some of the weighty customer service conversations out of the feed, and into a private space instead, freeing up accounts to refocus on the storytelling piece Twitter is still aiming for. In that same vein, the company is also rolling out “curated profiles” to a handful of brands, in order to allow them to showcase the best of their content, including that of the visual and video type favoured by the fashion industry. Notably, Twitter is pushing this side of things far more heavily than it is the idea of conversions for retailers. It is actively phasing out its “buy” button for instance.

Sedge Beswick, managing director at SEEN Connects, and former head of social at ASOS, commented: “I still think [Twitter] plays a huge role from a customer care POV primarily – visual for Instagram, Facebook for innovation and Twitter can be the supporting platform where people know they can get timely, supportive and relevant customer care support […] especially if we get the bots right.”


Comment

Twitter isn’t going away just yet, but it’s got a lot of work to do if it wants to re-forge real relevance with the fashion industry. What does this mean in terms of how you should approach it? At this point in time, the answer is relatively dependent on the type of brand that you are – mass-market retailers, department stores and more niche, or specific, brands (like Lululemon), who have developed a level of customer service activity, will likely want to stick with the status quo, explore new features and continue using the platform as an opportunity to converse with consumers on a query-led basis while engagement is high. 900 happy customers, is still 900 happy customers. Same goes for just 64. But analyse the data in terms of what you really get out of it over time.

There’s also still something to be said for using Twitter with news in mind too, but be aware of the fact it’s less of a conversion tool and more of a PR one, and even that may well be only on a good day. Approach it from a content sharing point of view, but figure out within that what your followers actually respond to and adjust accordingly. Whether you spend any advertising budget alongside will make sense thereafter.

The simple truth is, if you’re much more of a visual brand, or indeed one already channeling your focus primarily through other platforms, you may want to keep it that way. For those hovering somewhere in the middle, it’s worthwhile maintaining your Twitter accounts, but doing so by doubling up on resource, rather than promoting anything completely unique, is probably wise.

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digital snippets e-commerce social media Startups technology

Digital snippets: Diesel’s ads on Pornhub, Chanel’s Instagram battle, why the fashion world hates wearables

Your round-up of the latest stories related to fashion and technology…

diesel

  • Why you’ll soon be seeing Diesel ads on Grindr, Tinder and Pornhub [i-D]
  • Chanel may have just won a battle for the Chanel Instagram account [The Fashion Law]
  • Why the fashion world hates wearables [Co.Design]
  • High tech innovation wears well at Ralph Lauren [Forbes]
  • Burberry debuts on Apple TV with menswear fashion show [Mashable]
  • Misha Nonoo will skip fashion week to follow a consumer calendar [Fashionista]
  • Everlane’s starting a private Instagram account for new products [Digiday]
  • How Belstaff maintains a strong defense against counterfeiters [Stores]
  • How Urban Decay gets its 4.1 million Instagram followers to shop [Digiday]
  • Victoria’s Secret furthers organic storytelling mastery via Angel-endorsed Snapchat takeover [Mobile Marketer]
  • Crocs bows to critics, deletes David Bowie tribute tweet [Brand Republic]
  • Meet the female CEOs running fashion’s biggest brands [Fashionista]
  • What fashion needs to know about cyber security [BoF]
  • Shoppers are choosing experiences over stuff, and that’s bad news for retailers [The Washington Post]
  • Do ‘digital flagships’ deliver? [BoF]
  • The myth of the physical versus digital retail battle [WWD]
  • Why the social media ‘buy button’ is still there, even though most never use it [The Washington Post]
  • Inside the hidden world that handles your holiday returns [Wired]
  • Retail writes an obit on flash sale sites [Marketplace]
  • The blogosphere pays off more than ever [WWD]
  • What’s Grindr’s new agenda? [Dazed]
  • Instagram and the watch world [NY Times]
  • Why women aren’t buying smart watches [Racked]
  • Apple acquires Emotient, start-up that reads emotions from facial expressions [Fortune]
  • Why visual search will become a marketing obsession in the coming years [AdWeek]
  • These vibrating yoga pants will correct your downward dog [Fast Company]
  • 30 under 30 retail and e-commerce 2016: meet the millennials changing how we shop [Forbes]
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Editor's pick film

A pick of the best campaign films for A/W 15/16

outlaws

We might be in the final throes of the spring/summer 2016 fashion week season, but all the while our consumers (remember those) are starting to dress for autumn. Accordingly, a number of new films have been released that tick the box for both creativity and relevancy. They even feature looks you can buy now…

Here’s our pick of the best for autumn/winter 2015/16:

Belstaff


It might be 15-minutes long, but Belstaff’s Outlaws is one of the most engaging film on this list. David Beckham takes on the role of “The Stranger”, a mysterious drifter (he doesn’t actually have any lines) and motorcycle stuntman haunted by memories of a trapeze artist played by Katherine Waterston, and hunted by a maniacal director-cum-circus-master seeking revenge, played by Harvey Keitel. Tarot cards, late night diners and biker gangs also feature, Cathy Moriarty stars too, and if that wasn’t enough, Liv Tyler is executive producer.

Miu Miu


Narrative is often central to Miu Miu films and this season is no different, albeit it in a more conceptual fashion leaving you trying to figure it out. Subjective Reality, as the Steven Meisel piece is called, sees upcoming actresses Maddison Brown, Hailey Gates, Mia Goth and Stacy Martin play the role of casual passersby being admired through a number of lenses. In a voyeuristic fashion, the women clearly know they’re being watched, as they go about their business in a gritty New York setting – buying bagels from the street cart, waiting at the bus stop, sometimes being upstaged by others in the street, and more.

Hunter Original


Judy Blume’s Famous Five is the inspiration behind Hunter Original’s short film called A Hunter Highland Fling, which sees a group of young pioneers venturing through the Scottish Highlands. Visual artist Thomas Traum worked on the piece, which results in all sorts of digital graphics appearing throughout, which when paired with the tinny music, makes for what feels like you’re witnessing a virtual reality gaming experience.

Calvin Klein Jeans


Calvin Klein Jeans made headlines with its “sexting” -themed campaign this season. Based on the idea of today’s online dating nature, this is the brand once again combining the idea of being raunchy with what’s incredibly relevant in pop culture today, especially with the digital generation. Its provocative film shot by Mario Sorrenti, follows the same theme with groups of men and women, men and men, women and women, sharing the fact they’re getting together, and getting it on, via text messages.

River Island


Passion is at play over at River Island too, where models Hollie-May Saker and Simon Nessman feature in a film dedicated to them trying to pose a kiss for the camera, when the director keeps shouting “cut”. Several attempts later they’re clearly bored of such guidance and take matters into their own hands.

Kate Spade


Kate Spade is back with the third in its #missadventure series starring actress Anna Kendrick. This time set in a Russian Tea Room, it’s all about the company she keeps, from her dog to her handbag, and a special guest appearance from American journalist and activist Gloria Steinem. The piece is, once again, also completely shoppable.

Givenchy


There’s something a little more playful than expected in Givenchy’s film this season too. The Riccardo Tisci-led brand focuses on the frivolity of riding a bike, skipping, and playing a pinball machine, all the while set against the backdrop of an opulent stately home. Even bouncing a basketball on the dining room table underneath an elaborate chandelier isn’t a step too far for directors Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott.

H&M


David Beckham also appears in this list for H&M. The former footballer is on set in the retailer’s new Modern Essentials collection, when his agent shares the fact US comedian Kevin Hart is coming along to shadow him in advance of playing his character in “I Beckham, The Movie”. A very amusing tale follows of Beckham’s every move being watched and recorded. “There’s method acting, and then there’s what I plan on doing,” says Hart in their first encounter.

Valentino Men’s


Valentino’s seasonal menswear expression doesn’t lead with a narrative like many of the other films this season, but it does suggest that you’re missing one. Almost like the hint for a bigger tale still to come, it shows models in the busy Columbia Road Flower Market surrounded by the sounds of people all around them, the stall owners yelling out special deals and the constant backdrop of church bells. Flowers in arm, it’s otherwise a simple showcase of the collection.

And some others we’d recommend:

Rag & Bone dropping a concrete block on a car behind actress Gabriella Wilde; Burberry’s 70s vignettes of London; Behati Prinsloo on the American football field for Tommy Hilfiger; real-life shoplifters at Harvey Nichols as a promotion for its new rewards app; Marc Jacobs’ famous faces talking about what inspires them every day; and models over at Alexander Wang confessing to big secrets about themselves.

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film

Prada, McQueen, Lanvin, Belstaff, Miu Miu launch SS14 campaign films

miu-miu-spring-2014-campaign

It’s been a bumper start to the week in terms of spring/summer 2014 film releases. Here are five of the big ones:

  1. Prada

    Prada’s spot sees a bevy of models all acting as spectators at various different events – tennis, the cinema and a gig – so that shortly you realise they, in fact, are the spectacle. It was shot by Steven Meisel.

  2. Alexander McQueen

    Alexander McQueen’s short film is a haunting narrative starring Kate Moss as an otherworldly woman with sulphur yellow hair. Captured by Steven Klein, it follows the model as she is eerily being filmed by a tatooed stranger. A voodoo doll version of her can also be seen in the spot, and replicated in the print ads.

  3. Belstaff

    Belstaff’s relationship with David Beckham makes headway with a 90-second spot set in the English countryside. The star is seen zipping through fields on a motorcycle alongside friends “with a shared thirst for adventure”. It was shot by Hopi Allard, while the full campaign was captured by Peter Lindbergh.

  4. Lanvin

    Lanvin has captured sounds from its spring/summer shoot and overlaid them on its seasonal campaign film. Whisperings such as: “I think it is one of the most exceptional things I’ve ever tried,” and: “It’s my finest work,” can all be heard. Steven Meisel is also behind this one, with creative direction from House and Holme’s Ronnie Newhouse and Stephen Wolstenholme.

  5. Miu Miu

    Miu Miu’s is a personal favourite. Launched at the end of last week, it stars young actresses Elle Fanning, Bella Heathcote, Lupita Nyong’o and Elizabeth Olsen in what’s referred to as a “techno interpretation of the SS14 collection”. Inspired by video game speed and sounds, it was directed by Inez & Vinoodh, and edited by Otto Arsenault.

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social media

Belstaff launches new Legends campaign portraits by Scott Schuman, starring Beckham

Belstaff_Beckham

Belstaff hosted an elaborate event that played on its motorcycle heritage this London Fashion Week to celebrate the opening of its new flagship store in the capital.

With David Beckham as host, the British-born brand closed off part of New Bond Street to welcome a parade of 50 authentic bikers.  They were wearing both new and vintage pieces from the brand, but as its supposed to be worn, on the road and getting dirty, which is exactly what the team wanted to capture.

As a result, they hired Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist to do so. The well-known street style photographer shot a series of intimate portraits of some of the bikers, seven of which, as well as one of Beckham, are now live on the Legends section of Belstaff’s website, which is also home to images of its oldest jackets and the icons who have worn them.

Each of the stars – David Parr, Nate Petre, Josh Wasserman, Hugo Jezgabel, Mark Phillips, George Barden and Pat McAteer – features alongside a mini interview saying who they are, what bike they ride and where they find their inspiration. Collectively they are referred to as the “modern legends of Belstaff”. (Clicking on their pictures leads to the corresponding product page too).

I’ve also been privy to an early cut of a video set to launch in a couple of weeks time documenting the bikers travelling from the historic Goodwood Estate to Mayfair. It’s a beautiful testament to both Britain and the brand. Look out for it.

Beckham will also front Belstaff’s spring/summer 2014 global advertising campaign. It will be photographed by Peter Lindberg and inspired by the late Steve McQueen, a long-time fan of  Belstaff. Further pictures of Beckham at the opening of Belstaff House in London are below:

Belstaff House - Opening Event Belstaff House - Opening Event