In the know: Supercharging your sales via social media

Natalie Hughes, founder of The Fashion Digital, the first ever social media agency specialising in digital content and media for luxury fashion brands, gave members and guests of TheIndustry.fashion a “Masterclass” in how to supercharge their sales via social media at our exclusive event at W London – Leicester Square last week.

Hughes has, and continues to work with, some of fashion and beauty’s biggest names including Net-A-Porter, Matchesfashion.com, Christian Louboutin, British Fashion Council, Seven for all Mankind, Roland Mouret, Eyeko, Madeleine Thompson, Rupert Sanderson, LK Bennett and Harvey Nichols. A lecturer at Central Saint Martins and accredited PRCA trainer, she has also set up the first Fashion Social Media School offering week-long courses in social media marketing to “give brands the tools to DIY their own social strategy”.

If you want to know how to create compelling and actionable content to ensure the end to end experience from social post to your site is geared up to convert, then Hughes is someone worth listening to. To kick things off, she talked of four key components to look at; compelling content, a multi-layered paid strategy, targeted influencer partnerships and diligent community management.

“Content is key in my eyes. Pictures and words are the most important parts of digital marketing.”

Hughes favours an holistic approach, and says that a content strategy is so important, as strong pictures and sharp copy are vital to grab potential customers’ attention in the first place. “Content is key in my eyes. Pictures and words are the most important parts of digital marketing,” she said. “Never under estimate the power of a well written caption. It can create conversation, which is a great algorithm hack that can push your content higher up [in searches].”

According to Hughes, a real mix of content is also important to consider. “Organic content alone doesn’t always achieve results, so organic needs to be married to a really intensive paid strategy. Also, though traditional campaign and look-book shoots are done each season, the thing is with social platforms, such as Instagram Stories, 10 images from a campaign shoot is not going to cut it, because it’s not going to last you very long.”

Hughes couldn’t stress enough the importance of Instagram Stories, she believes it’s quite simply a must. “It’s a really clickable space, and it can re-engage existing audience members that maybe aren’t engaging with you much, or it can give someone the incentive to follow you. It also gives you an algorithmic advantage, because Instagram sees that you’re using all of its features, which raises your content up. Also, make use of the features Instagram stories offers you, like stickers and GIFS. It encourages interactivity.”

“We encourage brands to shoot content on a monthly basis. That doesn’t have to be super high production, it can be pretty DIY.”

Producing enough content on a regular basis is a major factor, according to Hughes. “You need content that’s going to last you throughout the year. That’s why we do ‘social first’ shoots, and why we encourage brands to shoot content on a monthly basis. That doesn’t have to be super high production, it can be pretty DIY.”

For Hughes it’s about communicating with your audience on a regular basis, “it is after all ‘social’ media,” she said. She also talked of having “behind the scenes content,” where by giving your audience a window in to your brand and the people behind it, making it more personal. “For us who work in fashion, we can underestimate how interesting it is for people who don’t work in fashion to see inside our lives. People want to see that stuff, so share a peek behind the scenes – in your office, studio or factory, because that’s very compelling for your audience and it makes great fodder for your social.”

Engineered partnerships with an influencer are also something Hughes highly recommends, because it can be great in multiple ways, especially as “it gives you loads of great content to share.” Another aspect to encourage is “user generated content” (UGC), because you want people to advocate for your brand.

Moving content is also now performing very well on social, and it also tends to be “a kind of algorithm hack,” said Hughes. “This type of content tends to bob up to the surface of a feed, so things like GIFS and videos are important. You can also never underestimate the power of a really beautiful graphic to make your feed really pop.”

“As digital marketers, and brands, we are terrified of the algorithm, so we need to work out ways of beating it.”

Making your brand stand out on social is what it’s all about, though that is a job to be carefully considered. “As digital marketers, and brands, we are terrified of the algorithm, so we need to work out ways of beating it,” commented Hughes. “The algorithm is a way of sorting posts in speed based on relevancy rather than published time. This is based on factors such as comments, likes, shares and tags.”

In that respect, she talked of Facebook being the most likely to try to tease your marketing budget, though she said to “look at Instagram as your additional shop window, as often a potential customer will click on to your Instagram feed before they click on to your website, so you want it to look really beautiful and really represent your brand. So, you want to be posting really high-quality content on Instagram. That’s a general rule for luxury brands.”

Facebook, however, is an important way of telling the story of your brand, and videos on Facebook are another good way of hacking the algorithm. And Instagram and Facebook ads are most important when it comes to paid social. “Put your money where your content is,” was Hughes’s message, but be wary of what your budget is and what you can afford.

Another important factor according to Hughes, is to always consider the grid on Instagram. “When someone happens upon your feed, they are going to make that snap decision whether or not to follow. Once you’ve got them following, you can target them with content and paid ads, and ultimately drive them to that all-important sale. So, the grid needs to draw them in. Make sure that those last nine images are the best they can be. You can totally be product focused on Instagram, especially with the introduction of Instagram Shopping. You can actually now link out from your post, which is so valuable for conversion. But mix it up with posts that aren’t just shoppable posts.”

Hashtags are another good way to hack the algorithm, but Hughes advises against using the full 30 allowed as it looks a bit overwhelming. “But I would definitely use between 10-15, and a real mixture of low, medium and high-density hashtags.”

“Pinterest is my favourite platform, but it’s one that brands are a bit confused by.”

Pinterest is another valuable tool to use in Hughes’s book. “It’s personally my favourite platform, but it’s one that brands are a bit confused by,” she said. “Pinterest calls itself a search engine, rather than a social media channel. People tend to go to Pinterest for a more edited search, so you don’t get all the random stuff that you would maybe find on Google. What’s great about Pinterest for brands, and publishers, is that it has real evergreen potential. When you ‘pin’ something, it can live on for years – and drive traffic to your website for years.

Touching on influencers, Hughes emphasised how they can really supercharge sales. She talked of three types, ‘super’, ‘macro’ and ‘micro’ influencers, depending on their level of followers, but how there is importance in all of them. ‘Super’ influencers are likely to have agents to negotiate fees, but on the other end of the scale, ‘micro’ influencers also have a key role to play.  They may only have 5,000 followers, but they could have a niche and dedicated following that suits your brand. Having 10 great ‘micro’ influencers can be powerful too. “They can be great brand ambassadors,” said Hughes. “As long as they have enormous suggestive power, and a digital platform, they are an influencer. That digital platform might be Instagram, You Tube or even their own blog. You can work with influencers on a number of things.”

On that note, we leave it to part two of the ‘Masterclass’ – to follow later this week – when we reveal what ‘macro’ influencer, Anna Shearer of Le Fashion Fetish, has to say about how she built her blog into a globally respected forum which has gained almost 130,000 followers on Instagram.

To find out more about our next events visit our Events page here.