The 'Social' Model: A Growing Trend or A Fashion Fad?

The 90s fashion was dominated by the world-famed supermodels, a group of larger than life, exuberant women who ruled the catwalk, and hearts of designers from Gianni Versace to Azzedine Alaia. While times have changed, and the fashion industry might never be able to produce the same chemistry between a group of women, today we experience the rise of a new breed of ‘fashion model’. She is best described by her close relationships with designers, active social media activity, a large follower base, and media buzz created around her right from the start of her career. Young and famous, models like Kendall Jenner, Kate Upton, Gigi Hadid, Suki Waterhouse, Cara Delevingne & co have in their hands the power to influence an entire new generation of fashion consumers. These girls include Tweeting and Instagramming in their job description, and their growing follower base is their main KPI.

The media is celebrating these girls as the new supermodels, comparing their personalities and attitude to the likes of Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington or Cindy Crawford. The explosion of this new crop was most evident after the recent SS15 fashion weeks wrapped up. Models like Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, Hailey Baldwin walked the shows, partied with the designers, and social media knew all about it. According to the founders of Galore magazine, social media enabled these models to be “perceived as themselves and their personality and not just for the way they look”.

Being present on social media makes these girls more real, tangible. Their relatable personality and aspirational lifestyle makes these models a powerful advertising tool. Karlie Kloss, who has over 700'000 followers on Instagram says that today ‘models can act as reporters’ When I was live-tweeting the Victoria’s Secret show, I thin#k I gained 60'000 Instagram followers in a matter of hours. It’s shocking, the power of having a presence on these platforms.”

Social Media Engagements

The Omni-present Cara Delevingne is probably the most known example of the new fashions social media darling. With her trademark eyebrows and an endless range of face expressions, Cara is one of those rare models who managed to make her personality a big part of her modelling career, and to some extent that makes her more real to her huge audience.

According to the Fashionbi's Online Influencer reports, the model has almost 2'000'000 followers on Twitter and almost 8'000'000 followers on Instagram. Based on her Twitter activity, her brand mentions range from Premium to the Mass-market category. Burberry, Topshop, Mulberry, Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney, Fendi, Giles and Chanel are among her top mentioned brands on Social Media. On the other side, based on Fashionbi’s individual influence reports of these brands, she also ranks in the top 5 social media influencer for companies like, Topshop, Burberry, Mulberry as of -1st of January 2014- 1st of November 2014).

In most cases these brand mentions are not a result of personal preferences but a way to promote brand endorsements or relationships with these brands. This year Cara was named face of Topshop and appears on the Fall/Winter 2014 campaign, thus becoming the first unique model to do that. The hashtag #ilovetopshop is the models most used after #regram, reaching an audience of over 15 000 000 Twitter users.

Another interesting example is the relationship between social media innovator Burberry and Cara. Burberry is well known for being the top fashion and luxury house which uses social media in a smart and engaging way, so the collaboration to Cara was a no brainer. Recently the brand has announced the My Burberry perfume collaboration with Cara and Kate Moss as the new faces. While recently launched, this campaign does not fall short from Burberry’s knack for social media which is evident when analyzing the #myburberry hashtag activity. Launched and peaking in September 2014, the trend was already mentioned over 8000 times on Twitter with Burberry, Cara and Sephora as the top influencers indicating a logical relationship between the three parties. It is interesting to note that while both Cara and Kate are involved in the campaign, Cara’s impact is much stronger. Her usage of the #myburberry hashtag reaches a potential audience of over 9'000'000 users on Twitter.

Crossing over the pond, models like Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid are also causing their social media sensation. In fact, at only 19, Kendall is currently the most followed model on social media with over 15'000'000 followers on Instagram, and almost 9'000'000 followers on Twitter. Social media is, in the end, a part of her family’s business model. Over the last year, Kendall’s activity included mentions of brands ranging from the premium, bridge and mass-market sector. Among her most mentioned brands includes Steve Madden, Nordstrom, Dolce&Gabanna, Balmain, Givenchy and Marc Jacobs.

Her association with Balmain is a great example of work and play. According to Balmain’s top influencers report, Kendall is one of their top 5 influencer, reaching an audience of over 17'000'000 potential users, and the only non-magazine users in that list. During recent fashion weeks, Kendall run the runway for Balmain attracting a lot of media attention but was also seen wearing Balmain off-catwalk and partying with the designer, Olivier Rousteing in Paris all of which cemented her status as a top influencer.

Social = Sales

But, what does this mean for fashion and luxury brands? Can this group of models actually drive sales? According to a 2013 article on Mashable, based on 250 ‘affordable luxury’ brands less than 0.25% of new customers have been acquired through Facebook and less than 0.01% from Twitter making Social Media a less efficient method to actually acquire new customers. According to the same article, social media does actually play a big role in organic search rankings making.

More than a sales tool, what social media provides is engagement with your audience. Think about it more of a ‘spread the word’ instrument. Through social media brands can deliver a message and introduce the audience to the backstage of their story. Typically social media followers are not actually loyal customers, or customers in general (especially for luxury brands), however they can become devoted promoters of the brand. Moreover, while this group of social media users in their 20s or even younger might not buy today, they will potentially do so in 5 to 10 years, so it is a long-term investment tool.

A strategically chosen model as the face of your brand can immediately increase the visibility of a campaign or a product and diffuse the channels of promotion. For example, the recent campaign of Cara Delevingne with Topshop puts her on the top influencer list for the brand. By simply using the #ilovetopshop hashtag, she reached a potential audience of over 15'000'000 users on Twitter who were able to see the brand through the eyes of Cara. By doing so, Topshop instantly associates to her audience, personality and the overall image.

What brands can benefit from this new wave of models and their usage of social media is to increase relatability by trusting another party in delivering their message. Their background and young age will appeal to a huge potential customer-base which the brand does not have the resources to reach out to, otherwise; but who could become a customer in 10 years from now. For example, Kendall Jenner is not only a rising model, but also a reality TV star. The majority of her followers will, by-default, be acquired based on these two activities, one influencing the other one.

So, while social media might not be a direct consequence to increase in sales for fashion and luxury brands, it is a long-term investment tool. Smart brand endorsements by using rising models enables brands to nurture and prepare the next group of loyal customers who will grow and mature together with this new crowd of social media ‘supermodels.

A right social media campaign with the right influencer can not only accelerate your brand's impact on the social media but also nurture your potential clients and lead to eventual sales. Let's plan your next campaign together. Contact Us