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Ecommerce: Instagram steals the show at London Fashion Week

Why photo-sharing platform Instagram is the go-to app for the fashion industry.

Fashion weeks have shifted from exclusive behind-doors events to being shared with the masses - even to the point where the clothes can be bought straight off the catwalk. Social media has played a huge part in this revolution, but whereas Twitter has been heralded as the prominent channel, there is a new leader this season in the form of photo-sharing app Instagram.

According to an infographic produced by digital communications agency Bell Pottinger Wired, the hashtag #LFW generated 39%more engagement on Instagram than Twitter around the time of the recent autumn 14 edition of London Fashion Week.

A number of big designer brands have been active on Instagram this season, but two stood out: boot brand Hunter and, of course, Burberry.

Hunter took to LFW to launch its new clothing line on the catwalk and used social media to spread it to the Instagram community. The Hunter show was streamed live onto its site and Instagram followers were offered further content in the form of film clips showing the inspiration behind the collection. As Drapers went to press, Hunter had 97,848 followers on Instagram and the majority of images and videos during LFW received at least 1,000 likes each, increasing the brand reach.

Burberry has long been seen as the front-runner in digital innovation around LFW and did not disappoint this season. As well as using a number of social channels, Burberry also made Instagram a predominant focus, sharing content from the shows including backstage images of models getting ready and front row reactions. The images are very consistent in keeping with the brand image, from detailed product close-ups to celebrity fans outside the show. Burberry’s numbers illustrate just how far ahead of the game the brand is, with 1,306,477 followers on Instagram and the majority of images uploaded receiving more than 20,000 likes each.

It’s not only around catwalk shows that fashion brands are using Instagram to engage socially. Rosanna Falconer, head of digital at Matthew Williamson, thinks Instagram is perfect for the fashion industry. She says: “The platform places the emphasis on image and the opportunity to share a daily visual diary is invaluable. They can capture the essence of the brand’s story at its most pure. The opportunity for small brands is exciting too: unlike Facebook and Twitter you cannot advertise on the platform yet, so a following is authentic and organic. A follower really is a brand advocate.”

Seeing is believing: Rosanna Falconer of Matthew Williamson – the designer oversees his own page – says Instagram places the emphasis on image

Seeing is believing: Rosanna Falconer of Matthew Williamson – the designer oversees his own page – says Instagram places the emphasis on image

Amber Atherton, founder of jewellery website Myflashtrash.com, says Instagram has been key in building relationships, and not only with customers. “It is the most powerful social media platform out there right now, especially for millennials. We’ve struck up new relationships with native platform influencers and global bloggers through interacting with them daily via comments and likes. In terms of web traffic and conversions, the platform is now our fifth biggest driver. In addition to this, late last year I caught on to Pixie Geldof and Ashley Williams’ Instagram account FunkyOffish and suggested we create a jewellery line together off the back of the brand potential. It had an incredible growth of followers.”

Kristine Kirby, ecommerce director at Hackett, says Instagram is driving the most engagement. “For visual, design-led brands, or for sartorial suggestions, Instagram is the front-runner. I can only see it becoming more important in the next year for us - both for photo and video. Unlike Vine, which restricts you to six seconds, Instagram allows the content to have room to breathe and tell a story, or show how to wear things, which is all part of the Hackett DNA.”

Jen Rankine, social media manager at Schuh, agrees. She says: “We know from past experience that our customers love good, bold images that don’t feel like an advert. Instagram is a perfect fit for this. It has drastically overtaken our other platforms, with a higher rate of engagement (no weird algorithms that mean you miss or never see posts and you have to scroll past everything), as well as sizeable numbers of people organically posting content with #schuh.”

As social networks go, Instagram has grown at an unbelievable rate. It hit 150 million monthly active users in half the time of Twitter. However, as Falconer points out, Instagram does not offer everything that Twitter can. “I would like to see tweets return to their essence. The 140-character limit provides a wonderful opportunity for wordplay and I miss the days back in 2007 when Twitter dominated. The show review tweets were insightful and intriguing - far more valuable than most fashion week shots we see on Instagram.”

Alice Stone, creative director at Lily and Lionel says: “Instagram is fast becoming the go-to social arena for the industry. Where else could you see runway videos and commentary on the collections before the show is even over? We love the freedom and instantaneousness it offers. We can share our ideas and best display what makes us tick at the drop of a hat.”

Donna Ida, founder of Donna Ida adds: “Instagram is our fastest-growing social media channel. It is a continuous mood board and a source of inspiration with a world reach. It can translate your brand with images in the same way that Twitter can through words. Images are native to the fashion industry, which makes it a very accessible platform. Engaging with hashtags can connect you to like-minded users across the globe in an instant.”

With both social channels having their own attributes, users and innovators, 2014 seems like it will be the year of Twitter vs Instagram. Let the battle commence.

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