This year’s NY Fashion Week was not only extraordinary for the clothing that strutted down the runways, but also the immense buzz that was generated on social media. As a recent Washington Post article points out, the annual fashion event has been undergoing a gradual, yet notable, transformation from elite industry-insider event to a can’t-miss consumer phenomenon.
NY Fashion Week has turned ordinary shoppers into wannabe Anna Wintours and Karl Lagerfeld groupies. That transformation is in large part due to social media, which has given retail and fashion enthusiasts alike the opportunity to participate directly in a spectacle they could once only marvel at in the pages of glossy magazines long after the runways were packed away for the year.
In that sense, the one in which social media has become a conduit for the everyman to become a fashionista, the real standout from this year’s collections (of social media networks) was Instagram.
L2, a research firm that studies the digital impact of brands, analyzed 192 fashion houses participating in NY Fashion Week and their social posts from Feb. 1 through Feb. 18. In particular, L2 studied “engagement,” a measure of how many users took an action such as “liking” a post, commenting on or re-sharing it from their own account.
In comparison to the level of engagement fashion brands saw on channels like Facebook and Twitter, Instagram’s performance was striking; the brands that L2 analyzed posted an average of 20 times and generated an average of 92,000 interactions per post. Yes, you read those numbers correctly. How did those same brands do on Twitter? Brands posted an average of 26 times on the channel, with tweets averaging 490 likes and 1,117 retweets each. On Facebook? Brands shared an average of eight posts each, which generated 8,000 interactions per post.
According to The Post, this discrepancy in engagement may reflect that Instagram is a younger social channel than Facebook and Twitter. “Arguably, since Instagram still has a relatively organic presence, it would be the best place to start, for an upstart fashion brand looking to connect with shoppers,” said Liz Elder, an associate with the firm who produced the Fashion Week study.
As The Post points out, Facebook has lost a lot of ground in both its share relative to Instagram as well as its overall engagement volume over the past three years, sending a clear message: Fashion conversation and inspiration-seeking is moving at an astonishing speed from Facebook to Instagram. Retailers, take note.
What makes Instagram especially interesting for retailers is its potential to drive actual buying behavior. According to The Post article, brands are engaging in a burst of experimentation around so-called “buy buttons,” allowing shoppers to easily transition from browsing their social feed to making a purchase without ever leaving the comfort of the social network. The L2 study suggests that Instagram may be particularly well-positioned to drive a boom in social shopping, because users are already engaging especially heavily with brands on the site in a way they aren’t on other networks.
This season, several major fashion houses, including Burberry, announced they’d move to a “fast-fashion” runway to retail model in which items featured on the catwalk are for sale in stores and online almost immediately. This is a sharp departure from the industry’s traditional model, in which clothes seen on the runway don’t hit stores until about six months later.
And so the transformation seems to be nearly complete. Shoppers no longer need to covet NY Fashion Week’s apparel from afar; they now have a front row seat to the action and an invitation to buy what they see with the click of a button from their mobile device.