Five Things about Social Media that Fashion PR Often Gets Wrong

We could argue until Betsey Johnson retires (never!) about which department should “own” social media — marketing, PR, branding, customer service? (Short answer: like your BFF’s closet, social media was made for sharing). In fashion, however, some of the greatest social media success stories occur when PR is at the helm. A quick glance through Lucky Magazine’s relatively exhaustive list of fashion brands on Twitter shows that in addition to social media darlings DKNY and Oscar PR Girl, Tibi, Elizabeth & James, and Stuart Weitzman all promote a decidedly PR-centric approach to social media. And why not? In-house fashion PR reps are connected to the day-to-day of office goings-on. In the know about everything from upcoming press placements to celebrity dressing, the fashion PR perspective can effectively extend the brand personality into social by providing “behind-the-scenes” content and, by engaging with fans and followers, build long-term rapport and loyalty between brand and consumer.

Yet, for many fashion publicists, their professional background is more pitching media than PPC, more credit checks than custom application development. As a result, the ins and outs of platforms like Facebook and Twitter are often misunderstood and misused. Here are five ways fashion brands are getting it wrong when it comes to social media strategy:

Fashion has a Police; Facebook has Promotional Guidelines
While it is remarkable how many fashion brands still have profile pages instead of business pages, the single biggest faux pas on Facebook is fashion brands that run contests on the wall. These contests often come in the form of status updates asking fans to post a picture or leave a comment for a chance to win something. The skinny is that while you can promote your contest on the wall, you must use an application to manage the actual entries. Solution: commit Facebook’s Promotional Guidelines to memory and then find a Facebook-approved vendor or developer to help you execute Facebook contests or sweepstakes.

The Perils of Improper Tweeting
No, I’m not talking about the serious lack of tact shown by some fashion designers and PR agencies for capitalizing on international tragedies to promote their own agenda (really, Kenneth Cole?) but a far simpler issue regarding how tweeting actually works.

Twitter is a powerful tool for building relationships with customers, bloggers and fashion editors. A great way to start the mutual adoration is to reference another Twitter user in a tweet for all your followers to see. However, an oft-repeated oops looks like this:

@fashionblogger wrote a great piece featuring our Evergreen leather satchel for fall

The problem with the above is that by beginning the tweet with @, only the Twitter account referenced, and any who happen to follow both the brand account and the blogger account will see that tweet. Not very effective…

A quick fix would be:

Loving the @fashionblogger piece on fall essentials featuring our Evergreen leather satchel

Moving Beyond the Fashion Blogger Brat Pack
As fashion bloggers become an integral part of PR, and even advertising campaigns, smart fashion brands have moved away from the standard email pitch and are instead working collaboratively with these influential digital content producers to curate and develop original, branded content.

However, the fashion community appears to be wearing blinders when it comes to developing partnerships with up-and-coming bloggers, or those with a non-traditional look, choosing instead to work with a handful of traditional glossy-approved bloggers that function (and look) more like models than true brand collaborators. Yes it’s fashion, but can we please do something besides another (yawn) photo campaign?

A Tumblr is Not a Content Strategy
Another day, another fashion brand launches a Tumblr. Ad Age reports that, “about 20% of approximately 40 million daily posts (about half of which contain photos) on more than 27 million Tumblr blogs are concerned with fashion in some sense, whether it’s bloggers documenting street fashion or opining on trends.” While brands like Anthropologie and Kate Spade have put effort into the design, personality, and types of recurring content, many fashion brands have simply used a free Tumblr theme and proceeded to blog and reblog haphazardly, with no clear purpose or process and rarely do they promote the existence of their Tumblr through to other social channels and Websites. Clearly, there is a lack of strategy. Before getting set up on Tumblr, consider the following:

  • Tumblr is built upon users “reblogging” each other’s content. What is your plan to both identify, follow and reblog content?
  • How will you drive traffic to your Tumblr?
  • What types of content should be posted to Tumblr?
  • How will you differentiate that content from what is on your company blog, Twitter account or Facebook account?
  • Tumblr doesn’t provide an analytics dashboard; how will you measure and report on your efforts?

Disclosure is more than divulging your secret shopping haunts
This thing happened. It’s called the FTC Blogger Guidelines and while it’s not likely that anyone is going to be put in an orange jumpsuit anytime soon, it’s certainly on the up and up (and just good ethics) to abide by their disclosure around “Material Connections.” This means, essentially, that the FTC considers anyone, even those with Facebook profiles, a “blogger.” As such, anytime a fashion PR agency posts about a client on social media, they must indicate that they are talking about a client. I like to either make it obvious in the copy or using #client on posts. This extends through to working with bloggers. Let’s all encourage and assist bloggers with disclosure in posts where they are writing about anything they were paid for, or any gifts/samples that received on behalf of a brand.

Fashion publicists provide welcome content that bring brands and consumers closer together, providing a level of access through social media that is not only a smart business move, but damn fun too. By ensuring that social media receives the same strategic thinking and best practices as traditional PR plans, and ensuring that fashion publicists receive the proper training and support, fashion brands can continue to reap the benefits of putting PR Girls in charge of social strategy.

— Crosby Noricks

About Crosby Noricks
Crosby Noricks has more than seven years experience in fashion and consumer marketing. She is the founder of PR Couture, an award-winning blog about fashion PR, marketing and social media, named a Top 25 PR Blog by PR Web. She won Blogger of the Year at the inaugural InfluenceSD awards and was named favorite Blogger/Tweeter by 944 Magazine San Diego. Crosby is director of social media at Red Door Interactive, a premier strategic Internet Presence Management firm, working with a multitude of clients including Charlotte Russe, Eagle Creek and Quiksilver. Follow her on Twitter @PR_Couture

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One Response to Five Things about Social Media that Fashion PR Often Gets Wrong

  1. [...] the rest of this article on Apparel Insiders Crosby Noricks is the founder of PR Couture. Follow her on Twitter @pr_couture or send her an [...]

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