Fashion Week Social Media Lessons Learned

From New York to London, Milan to Paris, brands have spent the last month trying to amplify the hype around their runway shows. Was it all worth it?

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NEW YORK — Was it all worth it?

From New York to London, Milan to Paris, brands have spent the last month flooding social media to amplify — and prolong — the hype around their runway shows. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest and every other form of social media have been inundated with live-streams, tweets, posts and pins — and not just from the brands or designers themselves. Buyers, chief executives, editors, stylists, bloggers and pretty much anyone even vaguely associated with the fashion weeks sent out tweets and photos about anything and everything to do with them.

Which is why, experts contend, all that effort might not be the best way to get a brand’s message out there.

The sentiment among many is that fashion week programs, for the most part, are just a flash in the pan. Rather than focusing on social strategies relating to a 10-minute runway show during the weeks when every other brand is pushing out social content, focusing on developing a longer-term strategy could result in a more significant return on investment.

“People are having a hard time combing through all the hashtags,” Shelly Socol, executive vice president and founder of digital agency One Rockwell, told WWD. “There is so much going on that it’s becoming overwhelming. It’s too much information too fast. Everyone is viewing everything at once, and they can’t even decipher what they want and what they don’t.”

Unless there is massive spend and efforts allotted to the space — think Burberry’s live-stream for its women’s spring show that was broadcast on 13 outdoor screens in London, New York and Hong Kong and, according to the brand, was its “biggest show ever in terms of social media” — it might pay to keep the focus on the bigger picture.

Stuart Weitzman kicked off its #madeforwalking campaign featuring Kate Moss during Milan Fashion Week, including a video featuring Moss and a multilayered social media initiative. The YouTube link garnered more than 204,000 hits, and Instagram followers grew by 72 percent, but entries for a user-generated Instagram video contest failed to meet expectations. What went wrong?

The lack of engagement can be contributed to two factors: the overcrowded digital space during that period and the barrier of entry for the contest being too high. It was too time-consuming and cumbersome for users to create their own videos to submit to the contest.

While users might like to consume videos, getting them to create their own and submit to a brand via tagging with a dedicated hashtag is another story.

“We knew going into this campaign that 99 percent of people consume content while only 1 percent create it. Asking people to create video on Instagram was pushing the boundaries of social media because it’s a new application on this platform,” said a spokesman for Stuart Weitzman.

“It’s a perfect example of how you can get lost in the shuffle. It’s timing. It’s a matter of where you want to spend your efforts and dollars during fashion week, and knowing that the space is completely flooded. Everyone is moving from one city to the next — it’s a caravan — and you can definitely lose out,” Socol said.

Socol — who counts Sam Edelman, Tracy Reese, Mara Hoffman, James Perse and Calypso St. Barth as clients — is adamant about brands devising a digital blueprint for their online strategy, including social media, e-commerce and marketing efforts. She believes those brands with a long-term strategy — and the ones that execute these campaigns during a time when the space isn’t as inundated — are the ones that will win.

For example, Hermès kicked off an omnichannel program Oct. 1 welding its Silk Knots app with a Silk Bar pop-up at the Time Warner Center in New York’s Columbus Circle, but did little digitally surrounding its spring runway show in Paris on Oct. 2. Instead, Robert Chavez, president and chief executive officer of Hermès USA, revealed that the company is investing heavily in digital as it pertains to developing apps and marrying the on- and offline experiences. He told WWD that digital spend will triple in 2014 — jumping from 10 percent to a third of the overall media budget.

Macala Wright, digital marketing consultant, founder and ceo of Why This Way and editor-in-chief of FashionablyMarketing.Me, thinks that runway live-streams have become a limitation for designers. The novelty has worn off, and return on investment for these 10-minute videos has started to dwindle for a host of reasons, including designers adopting the same filming techniques and similar event formats. It’s because of this that live-streams don’t go viral, and in many cases hardly garner more than a few thousand views.

“Most designers are not seeing the value of redefining, although the social technologies and platforms do exist to help them be very creative with their approach,” Wright told WWD. “Designers are hurting the industry and themselves by not focusing on and investing in differentiation of experience, as much as they focus on and invest in differentiation of actual clothing design.”

She cites platforms like Bumebox and Thismoment as having the social frameworks that allow for creative differentiation. Bumebox takes real-time social integrations (like live-tweeting sessions and Twitter), and it has powered social marketing experiences for the likes of eBay, NBC, Kenneth Cole and ESPN.

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