Sophia Webster founded her eponymous footwear brand in 2012 and has since built an enormous following on social media, particularly on Instagram. Here, she talks to Drapers about how social media became an intrinsic part of her business.
Sophia Webster Chiara Sandal
You have more than 750,000 followers on Instagram, 92,000 likes on Facebook and 16,200 followers on Twitter. How do you go about creating a strong social media presence that’s distinctive to the brand?
We try not to look too much at what other people are doing, and we try and focus on what we want to get across and what we want to say. We have a schedule and within that we feature our core product range, so people come to know the names and styles. But then have more fun things to engage more people.
We ran a competition called “Pimp My Chiara’s” when we reached 500,000 followers and then again when we reached 750,000. People sent in their coloured in versions of our butterfly Chiara heels, and the winner received a custom pair in the colour they designed. It’s all about finding different ways to start a conversation. Maybe a celebrity has worn our shoes. We also have a lot of imagery of our more seasonal shoes that we take around the office in Shoreditch with the hashtag #SophiasStompingGround. The most important thing is to keep everything really fresh.
How do you use analytics?
We try not to get too hung up on actual likes, but we do a report every month so we can set targets and track what does well. From that we can think about new ways of giving our followers more of what we know they like. We have recently started doing some tracking where we can post a picture of a certain shoe to Instagram or Facebook and then we can track how many sales we get of that shoe in the next 48 hours. We’re testing a few tools like that, but ultimately everything is linked back to the website so we can track through there as well.
How effective is social media at actually driving sales? Is it challenging to convert likes to sales?
The quality of the image of so important, it needs to be an image that makes you fall in love with the shoe. There are shoes we’ve not necessarily thought would be bestsellers that, because of one image on social media, have done really well. It’s through surprises like that you can use social media to learn a little bit more about what your customer actually likes, so there’s different ways to then drive sales.
Sophia Webster Havisham Wedge
How much do you interact with your followers? You use user generated content a lot, why do you find that effective?
People feel more involved with the brand if they know they might be on the feed. It inspires them to take a really good picture of the shoe if they think it might be featured. And people love it when people are featured, it’s a really special thing for them. That’s definitely something we try and do a lot. We have a nice back and forth with our followers and you see the same people buying the same shoes, you can see what different people are buying. There are specific loyal customers that we interact with a lot.
Do you find social media better for building a brand or is it actually a direct marketing tool?
It depends on the brand, but for us we try not to make it sales driven. It’s more about communicating the brand in the way we want to communicate it. We don’t want to be a faceless brand and social media allows us to talk to people in an authentic way. We do find that Facebook is more about pushing the products, and Instagram is about telling the story of the brand.
Sophia Webster credit Hazlett Beard
Would a strong social media or Instagram presence benefit any brand? Or is it better suited to a more youthful market?
The average age of our customer is about 35, and I don’t feel like Instagram is just for “young” brands – we have followers on our Instagram that go all the way up into their 60s. Brands need to tailor what they do on social media to their customers. We do what’s right for us but there’s no one-size fits all approach, it’s about testing what works and tailoring it to the customer. The most important thing is to learn about your customer, and then you have the information you need to think about new ways of engaging them.
Favourite social media platform?
I’d have to say Instagram – it’s been with me the whole way on my journey. I started the Instagram in 2012 as a personal account and then it morphed into the brand, but I ran it completely by myself for the first two years
What makes a good Instagram image?
There are lots of different ways to get a really nice image. For shoes, the angle is key and if there’s a special detail then you need to pull that out and show it off. If you’re trying to introduce a product, it has to be both clean and striking. Our mother and baby matching pictures do really well, they get shared a lot. People need to have an emotional response to the image and we try and plan things to do that.
What advice would you give someone just starting out with social media?
I’d say for them to do it totally themselves, don’t let anyone else take charge of it. They need to really establish their voice, what the special things are about the brand, and why it’s different. You can’t rely on someone else to do that, you have to take charge.
What are your favourite brands to follow on social media?
I follow the brands I like to wear and buy. I like House of Holland, they’re very funny. I like Ashish. Mary Katrantzou, I think she does it all herself and I think that’s nice to see when someone is actually involved.
Yasmina pom pom high sandal black sam16043 1
You also use Snapchat quite a lot, how do you find it as a marketing tool?
We were quite early adopters of Snapchat, we’ve been on it for a year and a half. We use it more as a behind the scenes glimpse than as marketing, it’s much more relaxed and we have a lot of fun on there. We do roundups that we post on Instagram and that’s a very different audience to Snapchat. Really Snapchat is a bit of fun for us as a brand, we want to have a fun working environment.
Where do you see social media going for fashion brands in the future?
I don’t see social media as a separate thing to the brand any more, it’s so much a part of our business. It’s how people live their lives now, it’s part of what we all do. Wake up check Facebook, check Instagram, and get dressed. It’s a part of this generation, I always said that I wanted to create a luxury brand for the new generation and social media is just a part of what they do.