Previously on Fashion’s Collective, the question was raised as to whether or not brands fully understand the potential of their social media presences or are solely showing themselves au fait with the different social networks in a bid to “pimp” their brand (read the full article here). Today, I want to shift the focus to whether or not brands are aware of the potential of social media within the B2B space. After attending the AW12 market that just wrapped up, it seems that many brands have yet to unlock the power of Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest et al for trade purposes.
The B2B space in fashion is one that has historically been quite “closed.” While in recent years bloggers have done much to knock down the walls surrounding the fashion press, when it comes to the commercial side of the trade, those high fortifications often remain.
While one can easily appreciate that the transactional nature of fashion buying and selling may well warrant a certain level of discretion, I am often puzzled by this inconstancy. Sure, no brand or buyer would appreciate payment terms or budget expenditure being divulged publicly. However, there is still quite a lot of leeway in utilizing social media in a trade context without crossing the boundaries of privacy and trade secrets.
So what are some simple ways that brands can use social to stand out during market?
TELL ‘EM WHERE IT’S AT: Brands may be weary of divulging “trade” invitations such as showroom details or trade show locations via social media. After all, chances are that B2C clients will view the update, and the fear is that this type of information will break down the veil of luxury or exclusivity. But this doesn’t necessarily have to be so – indeed, it can give a nice glimpse into the business, in a way that shows integrity and transparency. Moreover, communicating one’s presence at a particular showroom or trade show is not only helpful, but often helps reinforces a brands positioning by placing it into context with the other brands showing at that location.
SHOW WHAT’S GOING DOWN: Are you having an internal pre-sales briefing? Editing and merchandising ahead of the campaign? Is it a crazy busy day in the showroom and employees are finally sneaking a bite at 4:00pm? Share it and tag it on Facebook. While it is true that such “behind-the-scenes” content may not necessarily befit every brand, it is a fun way of involving followers and celebrating the hard work (not to mention long hours) that you and your team are putting in during this crazy period.
SHOW WHERE YOU HANG OUT: While it is true that stockist lists are highly guarded proprietary information that many brands choose to keep to themselves, it is equally true that name-checking a couple of boutiques that stock your wares can be extremely effective in communicating your brands’ positioning. So why not select a couple of key accounts and share how nicely your product sits in their stores? Or better, why not join Pinterest and create a list of dream accounts in which you would love for your brand to be stocked?
CONNECT AND REACH OUT: More and more potential trade partners – such as fashion buyers, agents, distributors and fashion offices – have joined Twitter, so why not use this platform to reach out? Whether it’s to remind a current buyer at a neighboring booth who has an appointment that you are just next door, or to thank a potential client who has just come around to learn more about your brand, a quick Tweet can do wonders. Of course, it’s worth remembering to respect the “social” aspect of social media – nobody likes to be pestered. But for genuine relationship building, social is brilliant!
SHOW ‘EM WHAT IS SELLING: This is a contentious point for big brands and young designers alike, particularly in the age of quick high-street copies. Do you share what your best sellers are, only to see them sold at a quarter of the price in three months’ time? This is a highly subjective decision and one that, particularly within a larger organization, is best addressed by more senior team members. However, one could argue that sharing a few snaps of best sellers during the campaign could contribute to a clear chain of evidence, proving that a brand developed a particular design well ahead of the copyist. Besides, if in doubt, blurry “artistic” Instagrams are the best!
Of course, these are but some simple suggestions that brands might want to implement and adapt to their needs. As with B2C communication, the decision to include specific content designed to communicate on a B2B plane – and what kind of tone and language that content should have – needs to be coherent and consistent with the underlying brand identity. But given the availability of such powerful platforms, it does seem somewhat of a wasted opportunity to not use social media proactively in a commercial context, particularly during market, when the whole aim of the game is to come together as an industry and connect.
Photo credits: Escada’s New York showroom, designed by Garry Cohn