Instagram is one of the most visual platforms out there, with very little text functionality. In effect, it’s the social equivalent of a magazine. With that in mind, I’m always surprised when I compare my Twitter and Instagram feeds and find one stark difference – top designers aren’t on Instagram.
In an industry where the look is key, you’d think that would not be the case. And it’s not with contemporary brands – I see TopShop and BCBG in my feed on a daily basis. But two of the world’s top fashion houses are notably missing – Chanel and Saint Laurent Paris (formerly known as Yves Saint Laurent)*.
So what’s the deal? Why the resistance against the increasingly popular and extremely visual platform? I have a few thoughts:
The platform isn’t sophisticated enough.
This may sound crazy, but if you think about it, the functionality of Instagram is extremely limited. On Twitter, you have a lot of control when it comes to the look of your page. It can change with each season’s campaign or a specific promotion. On Facebook, you have endless ability to embed lengthy videos of fashion shows and include links to take the user on a desired path. The list goes on and on. With Instagram, you have to stick one photo size, no more than 15 seconds of video and can only put a link in your “About” section. Plus, you lose the ability to craft the look of your profile. While this may not matter to some brands, when you’re a century-old fashion house selling suits for thousands of dollars apiece, you want everything, including your social profile, to look impeccable to appeal to your buyer.
It’s not the right audience.
More than 90% of Instagram users are under the age of 35*. In other words, they don’t have thousands of dollars to shell out on couture. Why spend time, money and resources on an Instagram profile when it probably won’t generate sales leads? Some people might argue that maintaining a presence increases brand awareness, but I’m thinking Chanel and Saint Laurent are probably doing okay on that front.
It’s not very French.
Yes, fashion houses are globally recognized, but these French designers focus on Paris. For the rich, visiting the Chanel boutique on Rue Royale is a large part of the experience of owning something Chanel. In the end, Paris is still the fashion capital of the world, and all eyes are on the city during Fashion Week. While Facebook and Twitter usage in Europe is comparable to that of the U.S., active Instagram usage in Europe is half that of America ***. If you’re Paris-centric, Instagram isn’t the go-to platform.
Competitive designers, such as Louis Vuitton and Prada, have a very active presence on Instagram. Louis Vuitton posts at least daily – with pictures and videos of products and an occasional sneak-peak at the design process.
And with more than 2.6 million followers, you can bet the amount of engagement is through the roof. Most brands would kill to have that many comments – but when you take a closer look at this engagement, here’s what you’ll find:
- Fans that love the brand, but can’t afford it. – This is the 15-year-old girl who effervesces about anything with the classic LV print. They’ll like and comment on any content, but they probably won’t be able to afford the brand for many years, if ever.
- People who just whine about how expensive it is. – I’m not sure what this accomplishes, because it’s not like top designers will ever give a discount or lower their price point. It’s probably better to not have that littering your page.
- Tagging friends who would love the product. – Streams and streams of endless users tagging their friends (who most likely also can’t afford LV) so that they’ll see the product. What’s missing? Any comment about the product or the brand itself.
- Every language you can imagine. – We live in a global world, and Louis Vuitton is a global brand. But that leads to a mix of languages on every post that it would take a whole team to keep up with, which leads me too …
- No response from the brand. – With the kind of engagement present, I can see why the brand doesn’t respond. Occasionally, they receive a legitimate question about a product, and it gets lost in the noise.
- Too much engagement. – Is this even possible? Yes. There are so many senseless, unconnected comments that you just have words – never a conversation.
In the end, I understand and agree with Chanel’s and Saint Laurent’s decisions to forego a presence on Instagram. It costs time, money and manpower, and the quality engagement and buying audience just aren’t there. But, is any engagement good engagement? What do you think about some of the world’s top designers skipping out on such a visual platform?
*Chanel and Saint Laurent Paris have ownership of their Instagram pages, but zero posts.